WRIGHTSON KALUTA CARDY ADAMS O’NEIL GLANZMAN POST SKEATES ARAGONÉS
In The US
DC Comics: 1967-74
The Daring & The Different
EDITOR’S RANT: IN THE LIVING YEARS The urgency of Comic Book Artist’s mission and a plea for help................................................................2 CBA COMMUNIQUES Re: The Warren Report—Frazetta, Corben, Eisner, Wrightson, Ivie and more comment on CBA #5 ..........3 DORK ATTACK! Evan Dorkin on why most comics suck big time! ......................................................................................6 THE WORDS & PICTURES MUSEUM OF SEQUENTIAL ART Museum curator Fiona Russell explains that while W&P’s doors close, the virtual window opens............8 DATELINE: @!!?* Getting “In Like Fred” (Hembeck, that is) with the scoop on that ’70s classic, The Phantom Stranger ....9 THE MADAMES & THE GIRLS The story behind the DC Writers Purge of 1968 by Mike W. Barr ..........................................................10 THE LAST JOHN BROOME INTERVIEW Mike W. Barr talked to Silver Agers John & Peg Broome at last year’s San Diego ComiCon ..................16 IRWIN DONENFELD INTERVIEW: DONENFELD’S COMICS A conversation with the one-time DC editorial director on the company’s (go-go) checkered past ........21 SPOTLIGHT ON NICK CARDY: THE 1998 SAN DIEGO COMICON PANEL TRANSCRIPT With Nick Cardy, Mark Evanier, Colleen Doran, Marv Wolfman, & Sergio Aragonés ..............................24 ALEX TOTH: BEFORE I FORGET Toth on his feelings about Frank Robbins’ DC work, and ruminations on The Shadow and Batman ......30 GIL KANE INTERVIEW: MAN OF ACTION A chat with the artist about his great Captain Action and other late ’60s DC work ................................34 NEAL ADAMS INTERVIEW: “A QUIET PITCHED BATTLE FROM DAY ONE” Talking with the artist on his hell-raisin’ DC days....................................................................................36 SERGIO ARAGONÉS INTERVIEW: MAN BEHIND THE BAT (LASH) A conversation with the great cartoonist about his writing days at DC and Plop! ..................................40 HOWARD POST INTERVIEW: COUNTRY BOY FROM THE CITY A rare discussion with the artist/writer behind Anthro, and a whole lot more ........................................46
CBA #4 CORRECTIONS: Oy. The bigger CBA gets, the bigger whopping mistakes there be. The name is LEE MARRS!!! TwoRs, ya dumb editor!!! Sorry, Lee. Our profound apologies to David A. Roach and A.J. Greenwood for A) omitting D.A.R.’s “thank you” list for his exquisite article on the Spanish Artists, and B) for neglecting to mention the extraordinary efforts my pal A.J. went through to transcribe D.A.R.’s intsy-winsty handwriting. I’m sorry, Ajé! You did a great job. Dave’s kudos went to Mariel Miralles (at S.I.), Steve Holland, Barry Coker (at Barden), Louise Simonson, Ian Gibson, Herb Spiers, Steve McManus, Gil Page (at Fleetway) and Ron Tiner. Apologies to Jerry K. Boyd for neglecting to list him on the contributors page—Jer shared the Kurtzman Help! thumbnail and a Frazetta Vampirella line drawing. My regrets to Jim Warren and Flo Steinberg for the extremely dark printing of some of their photographs... it’s the thirsty paper stock. Visit CBA at our NEW Website at: www.twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/ All letters of comment, articles and artwork, please mail to: Jon B. Cooke, Editor Comic Book Artist, P.O. Box 204 West Kingston, RI 02892-0204 NEW PHONE NUMBERS! (401) 783-1669 • Fax (401) 783-1287 ARTIST™
DENNIS O’NEIL INTERVIEW: SHADOWS OF REALITY The writer behind Green Lantern/Green Arrow and The Shadow on his early DC days ..........................54 SPECIAL SAM J. GLANZMAN TRIBUTE SECTION SAM GLANZMAN INTERVIEW: The Salty Dog on his great DC war book material ................................62 MY LIFE AS A CARTOONIST: Sam discusses his long career in comics, from Fly-Man to Jonah Hex ....64 IN ONLY FOUR PAGES…: Don Mangus & Andrew Steven look at the best U.S.S. Stevens tales ........66 STEVE SKEATES INTERVIEW: SKEATING ON THIN ICE Talkin’ at the Fishman himself, that Aquaman and Plop! scribe on his Charlton and DC days ................70 MARV WOLFMAN INTERVIEW: BREAKING INTO THE RANKS Busting a move into the Old Boy network at National Periodicals with the Wolfman himself ..............76 LEN WEIN INTERVIEW: AN ILLEGITIMATE SON OF SUPERMAN Swamp Thing co-creator and Phantom Stranger scribe on his early tenure at DC Comics ......................79 BERNIE WRIGHTSON INTERVIEW: LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL Swamp Thing’s other co-creator discusses his artistry on Joe Orlando’s mystery books ..........................82 MICHAEL WILLIAM KALUTA INTERVIEW: THE MAN BEHIND THE SHADOW Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of old DC? We dunno, but Mike talks about his time there! ......86 INVASION FROM THE PHILIPPINES Chris Knowles gives us a brief survey of the influx of great Filipino artists at DC Comics ......................90
N EXT ISSU E—TH E MARVE L B U LLPE N: 1970-1977
COMIC BOOK is published quarterly by TwoMorrows Publishing, 1812 Park Drive, Raleigh, NC 27605, USA. 919-833-8092. Jon B. Cooke, Editor. John Morrow, Publisher. Editorial Office: P.O. Box 204, West Kingston, RI 02892-0204 USA 401-783-1669 • Fax: 401-783-1287. Send subscription funds to TwoMorrows, NOT the editorial office. Single issues: $5.95 ($7.00 Canada, $9.00 elsewhere). Yearly subscriptions: $20 US, $27 Canada, $37 elsewhere. VIews expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TwoMorrows Publishing. All characters are © their respective companies. All material is © their creators unless otherwise noted. All editorial matter is © their respective authors. ©1999 TwoMorrows/Jon B. Cooke. First Printing. PRINTED IN CANADA.
The Madames & the Girls The DC Writers Purge of 1968 by Mike W. Barr
Above: The Frank Miller illustrations featured in this article originally appeared in the initial version of Mike W. Barr’s piece, published in Frank’s creator rights newsletter, WAP! in August, 1988. Special thanks to Frank for his kind permission. Look for our special “Frank Miller & Company” issue coming early next year, focusing on the artist/writer’s numerous collaborations over the years. All Miller art ©1988 Frank Miller.
©1999 Michael W. Barr. 10
Forword to the 1999 version: This article was first written for the August, 1988 issue of WAP!, a newsletter for and by freelance comics personnel. We must have been doing something right, WAP! in its short life caused fierce debate amongst nearly everyone who read it; company reps, the fan press and the freelancers themselves, who can barely agree on the time of day, much less the proper stance for dealing with publishers. WAP! was also the perfect vehicle for an article like “The Madames and the Girls,” focusing on a piece of comics history I’d always found intriguing, and investigated, hoping to separate rumors from truth. I had thought the 1988 version was a more or less definitive account of the facts. As the interview with John Broome—and its Afterword—will reveal, such is far from the case. Still, as Nietzsche wrote, “In the mountains of truth, you never climb in vain.” The whole truth about The DC Writers Purge still remains to be revealed, but a large part of it is brought to light here, and I thank all those quoted herein who gave of their time and plumbed their memories, often for the first time in 20 years. The following version has been somewhat revised for this publication, primarily to accommodate the facts learned in the accompanying piece, “The Last John Broome Interview.” — MWB “A group of veteran writers, including Bill Finger, Gardner Fox and Otto Binder, pressured DC to provide pensions and insurance; they ended up losing their jobs.” — Les Daniels, DC Comics : 60 Years of the World’s Favorite Comic Book Heroes (Bullfinch Press, 1995) Fans of DC Comics in the late ’60s may have been somewhat bewildered when, over a period of about 18 months, a number of long-time DC writers ceased scripting titles they’d worked on for years. Gardner Fox, a prolific and popular DC writer since the 1930s, the creator of Adam Strange, Star Rovers, Space Museum, Hawkman, and the Golden Age version of The Flash, was the scripter of Justice League of America through #65 (Sept. 1968), after which he was replaced without explanation. His final script for the Silver Age Atom, another character he co-created, was published in the
Feb./Mar. 1969 issue of The Atom and Hawkman #41. What was probably Fox’s last comics script for DC appeared in Detective Comics #384, Feb. 1969. Likewise, John Broome, another popular scripter for DC and creator of “The Atomic Knights,” and writer of the majority of Silver Age scripts for The Flash and Green Lantern, wrote his last story for DC with Green Lantern #75, March 1970. During the Silver Age, each editor at DC had his own “stable” of freelancers, who (with occasional exceptions) worked only for him. (The “stable” system began to disintegrate in the middle to late ’70s, as younger writers chose to work for more than one editor, and as editors sought fresh talent. The Writers Purge helped to end this system by drawing in younger contributors who had not formed concrete relationships with only one client.) Therefore, when an editor left a book, the freelance writers and artists generally went with him—even if the writers and artists created the book. And in those days, writers stuck to features far longer than is the norm today. It was unusual, therefore, for such top talents as Gardner Fox and John Broome—by no means old men (Fox was about 54)—to depart their long-term employer, virtually within a year of each other, yet they did, and with little fanfare. The letter column for JLA #65, Fox’s last issue, contains correspondence from a reader who asks that the book “please continue in this vein.” Editor Julius Schwartz’s perhaps ironic reply: “And we’ll continue in the vein you ask for, no matter what the bloody cost! A ‘new’ penciler introduced in the previous issue; a new writer [Denny O’Neil] in the next one!” Similar lettercol responses, and a change of names in the credit boxes were the only clue that there had been a change of writers at all; had not Schwartz recently begun crediting the creative teams, it would have been difficult to tell there had been a change. Yet other DC writers of long duration had also either departed, or were getting ready to leave. Months earlier, Arnold Drake, creator of Deadman and co-creator of The Doom Patrol, had written the last issue of that book and was writing few other assignments for DC. Other DC writers of long-standing tenure with the company were affected, such as Ed “France” Herron, and Bill Finger (called by Batman creator Bob Kane “the unsung hero of Batman”), the first writer of Batman, and considered by many to be the unacknowledged co-creator of the character. Over a period of approximately 18 months, writers whose total experience measured more than a century, many of whom had written for DC Comics since the company’s early days, many of whom had created some of the company’s most popular and profitable features, left the firm. Some, like Drake and Finger, returned to DC briefly in the ’70s. Fox returned for one “Adam Strange” text story in the ’70s. Broome never returned. Drake and Fox went to Marvel, where Drake scripted X-Men for a while and Fox scripted such titles as Doc Savage, “Dr. Strange,” and Tomb of Dracula. Both left comics soon after. For two decades it was assumed that the above-quoted story— that the writers had been summarily fired because they asked for health insurance—was true. The truth seems to be less clear-cut, and more insidious, and heralds the death knell for the Silver Age of Comics. It’s a story about ageism, about the contempt those who cannot create have for those who can and, of course, it’s a story about politics. COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
“We tried to form a union,” said Bob Haney, co-creator of Teen Titans, Eclipso, Metamorpho, The Doom Patrol, and prolific scripter on such DC titles as The Brave and the Bold, World’s Finest, House of Secrets, and “Unknown Soldier,” among many others. “That would probably be ’66, ’67... There was an attempt to form one in the ’50s... That was squashed in the most horrendous way—people were just kicked out. The attempt we made in the middle ’60s, or late-middle ’60s, included Gardner [Fox]; John [Broome] came to a few meetings... Bill Finger was in on it for a while, Arnold Drake, myself... Mortie [Mort] Meskin came to a few meetings…. “What had prompted the unionization was a terrible meeting that Arnold [Drake] and I had with the publisher [Irwin Donenfeld, DC executive vice president]… We went in to get a raise... and we went in and hassled with this man for an hour, and finally he said something to the effect that he would give a dollar-a-page rate raise, which was ridiculous. And then he said he would only give it to one person at a time, and that I would be the [first] person, which was putting me totally on the spot... And we walked out, because we realized that this was a joke... The attempt to give [the raise] to one person, was to isolate me—or whoever he offered it to—and at the same time to put me on the spot, because if I didn’t take it, nobody would get it.” Haney thought Donenfeld’s offer, even with the ludicrous offer of one dollar a page more, was an attempt to buy him off. “Better he should have said nothing at all, that would have been clear-cut. But this way of trying to isolate us, and divide us, was insulting, of course... “I may have accepted it the next day, because I felt that if I didn’t take it, the other guys wouldn’t get their dollar... My memory is a bit hazy... But I hope to hell I didn’t. The only thing to really do was to walk out and say, ‘Screw you, Jack’… We did walk out, as I recall, but without saying ‘Screw you’… That prompted us to hold the meetings to try to form the union... [The Donenfeld meeting] may have predated the unionization more than just a week or two, it may have been some months. I’m not sure... .” Arnold Drake’s memories of the meeting with Donenfeld are somewhat different, “But it could have happened that way... It came as no surprise to me, because that was the way they worked. Irwin and I had words at one point, because when I asked him for a rather substantial raise, and he did agree to give it to me, he then said, ‘But of course, you’re not gonna mention that to any of the other writers.’ And I said, ‘I’m not going to go out of my way to tell them about it, but I’m not going to lie to them if they ask me.’ And that made him quite angry, because they worked on a basis of secrecy.” Drake named the persons involved: “There was Bob [Haney] and myself... Kurt Schaffenberger... At one point or another it was more than six or eight. I guess it was about 10... At some point [we] had Dave Wood [scripter of Batman and Green Arrow], Otto Binder, France Herron... [Gardner Fox and John Broome] were both involved... John Broome would have made a difference, if John had lived in the country, but he was living... in Paris.” [See accompanying interview with John Broome and Afterword.] When asked how it was determined what the writers would ask for, Haney replied, “Arnold [Drake] was the man who formulated that sort of thing, he had more background and experience than I did at that time.” “[The writers’ movement] was not about page rates,” said Drake. “It was more complicated than that. Page rates are significant, but they did not go to the crux of the thing. The true crux of the thing was the matter of giving the writers some kind of ownership... if not actual ownership, then at least a kind of participation. That was the real issue. What [DC President] Jack Liebowitz did—quite successfully—was to turn it into a page rate issue and order something like a two-dollar raise across the board for everybody... not a significant [raise]… but everybody was very impressed by what they felt was a changing atmosphere, but it did not go to the real root of the problem, which was that writers were to prosper if they were successful in making the company prosper... Summer 1999
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
Partial ownership [of properties] would probably have been the final goal, but that was way off in the distance... We were interested in some kind of a share of the profits, some means of being rewarded for having done a good job... [A union] would have been the logical outcome. At that time... our immediate interest was in getting some kind of recognition for the contribution of the creative people.” Drake confirmed that health insurance was a part of their package. “There were a number of requests, and that was among them. The best they were willing to do was to allow us to buy our insurance through the company, so we would pay a lower rate, but they weren’t willing to take any part of the insurance.” Donenfeld was, according to Drake, willing—albeit grudgingly—to grant raises to the writers, but was unwilling to extend this largess into the area of fully paid medical benefits, profit participation, and partial ownership of characters. Neither Irwin Donenfeld, son of former DC president Harry Donenfeld, nor Jack Liebowitz were highly thought of by the creative community. “[Liebowitz] was basically a bookkeeper,” said Drake. “[It took] a very sophisticated bookkeeper [to] have kept DC alive in the ’50s. So Liebowitz was a ’50s hero, just as his failure to see comics in its fullest context made him the bottleneck of the ’60s... What Liebowitz did do—which was kind of amusing, it was almost an insult to my intelligence—he turned to me at one point during the negotiations to say, ‘You don’t understand. I’m very sympathetic to the points you’re making. When I was a young man I was a Socialist, too!’ The problem was that Liebowitz had a youth of 20 minutes.” Whatever Donenfeld’s priorities were, good relations with the writers does not seem to have been among them. Drake recalls the following resolution of a dispute between himself and Donenfeld, concerning Doom Patrol #121 (Sept.-Oct. 1968), the last issue of that book: “In a kind of petulant retaliation, what Donenfeld did was order that [artist] Bruno Premiani’s [art] be altered. Originally it had [shown] Bruno and myself talking [to the reader], and he removed my figure and put [editor] Murray Boltinoff’s in.”
Above: March 1968 correspondence between John Broome and Julius Schwartz discussing the volcanic atmosphere at the usually sedate DC offices. While not specifically mentioning the DC writers’ situation, the letters do emphasize the monumental changes taking place in the comic book company’s offices. Thanks to Julie Schwartz for sharing these with us. ©1999 Julius Schwartz.
The Last John Broome Interview Mike W. Barr talks to Silver-Agers John & Peg Broome
Conducted by Mike W. Barr
Above: Carmine Infantino pencils and Joe Giella inks depicting a contemplative John Broome from the Batman story in Detective Comics #343. Note the resemblance to a certain DC editor on the dart-covered picture behind John. ©1965 DC Comics.
Meeting John Broome, long one of my favorite comic book writers, at the 1998 San Diego Con was a bigger thrill than I can easily convey here. I had the immense privilege of taking John and his wife Peg to dinner one night and later conducted this interview with John, with Peg taking an active part in providing important facts or prodding John’s memory. You’re not alone in wishing it were longer. Since his time was short, many aspects of John’s long career went untouched; and, since he was already talking about attending other American conventions, and was in good health, I hoped we could pick up at some other meeting. Such was not, alas, to be the case. John Broome died on March 14, 1999, leaving behind many unanswered questions, and even more family, friends, fans, and happy memories. The memory of John Broome that remains with me is of the man’s grace, his good humor and even, in certain aspects, his serenity. His quote concerning the death of Hal Jordan, DC’s Silver Age Green Lantern: “I would never write that story!” has been reported. On the way to the Hotel Marriott to conduct this interview, I mentioned to John that Barry Allen, DC’s Silver Age Flash, had been similarly killed. He made no audible comment, but shook his head once, in disgust. That was his only reply. He refused to dwell in the past, preferring, I believe, to be content with his accomplishments and not stew over what other hands, whose priorities and affections were not his own, had done. There’s a lesson there for everyone who labors in a work-forhire medium; John Broome learned it long ago. Immense gratitude is due to Richard Morrissey, who put together the funding to bring John and Peg Broome to the 1998 San Diego Con. This, then, is The Last John Broome Interview—and I have never more fervently wished to be proven wrong. — MWB ©1999 Michael W. Barr. This interview was conducted in San Diego on August 15, 1998. It was transcribed by Jon B. Cooke. Special thanks to Peg Broome and Julie Schwartz for their gracious assistance.
Mike W. Barr: Mike Barr here with John Broome at the lovely Hotel Marriott. John, how have you been enjoying yourself? John Broome: Pretty good, all things considered. Who was it when they asked him how he was at 83 and he said, “I feel pretty good when you consider the alternative”? MWB: Exactly. [chuckles] John: That’s the way I feel now: I feel pretty good considering the alternative. MWB: Is this the first convention you’ve ever been to? John: Yes. This is the first convention. MWB: Really. You must have heard something about them when you were still in comics. John: Yes. Julie [Schwartz] would tell me about the conventions and he’d ask me to go—but I never went. MWB: They’re sort of a spin-off of the science-fiction conventions that Julie attended. John: I didn’t know about them either. I was never a real sciencefiction writer. MWB: You said [at the panel] that you initially wrote 12 sciencefiction stories for the pulps. John: Just about. I was starting out. I did 12 science-fiction stories—maybe it was a little less, but it was certainly over 10. MWB: Had you done any comic book writing at that time? John: No. I did the science-fiction writing first. MWB: I see. How did you get into comics? John: You see, Julie Schwartz was my agent (we called him the first interplanetary agent). Peg Broome: He was Ray Bradbury’s agent. MWB: Yes, he was Ray Bradbury’s and a bunch of other important science-fiction writers’ agent. John: And he sold about 10 of my science-fiction stories as my agent. Then he got a job at DC and, since I had a good contact with him, I began to write comics for him. MWB: Before that you worked at Fawcett? John: Yeah. For a short time. MWB: How did you get involved with Fawcett? John: I think I met someone who was an editor. I knew a number of people (who now come back to me): Wendell Crowley, Rod Reed, France Herron—but I don’t know which one actually started me off. MWB: You were saying yesterday that you wrote a character called Lance O’Casey who was an explorer, a South Seas-type. John: Yes. Sort of a Joseph Conrad-type character. MWB: Yeah. I’ve read some of those. That kind of character was more popular back then than it is today. John: That may be so. MWB: Today super-heroes seem to be the thing. John: Yes. In those days there was a magazine called South Seas and this kind of story would appear in that magazine. So they took the idea and made it into a comic book called Lance O’Casey. MWB: Did you create that character? John: I don’t think so. It’s hard to remember now, but I don’t think so. MWB: It was pretty much an assignment that was given to you? John: Right. MWB: So you knew Julie through your science-fiction stories; he was your agent. John: That’s right. I don’t think I knew Julie before he was my COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
The Old Guard
Donenfeld’s Comics A talk with Irwin Donenfeld, 1960s DC Editorial Director Conducted by Jon B. Cooke
Irwin Donenfeld was raised in the comic book business as the son of legendary Harry Donenfeld, one of DC Comics founding fathers. By 1947, Irwin was working for the company in a stint that lasted 20 years in an era when DC was top dog in the field. During his tenure—first as a production assistant and eventually as editorial director—Irwin was intimately involved in many major creative and marketing decisions. While he left the company in early ’68, this interview reveals how the stage was set for the “daring and different” days to come. Thanks to Arlen Schumer for help in locating Irwin. This interview was conducted via phone on March 4, 1998. Comic Book Artist: When did you start working at DC? Irwin Donenfeld: In 1948. I was an assistant to a guy in the production department and he left for various reasons shortly after I was there. Whit Ellsworth, who was our editor, went to California to work on the Superman TV series so that left me. There I was, with only a few years of experience, and I was running the whole department. I never had a title; I was executive vice-president, but I was de facto publisher. We had two divisions: one was Independent News where we distributed books and magazines for other publishers as well as our own, and the publishing end. Paul Sampliner ran the distribution end and Jack Liebowitz ran the whole shooting match. Later the Licensing Corporation of America came along and it was the idea of Jay Emmett, who was Jack’s nephew. Jay was assistant editor and he had this idea and I helped him formulate it, and he went to his uncle who said, “Yeah, go do it!” His job was to license the characters and he started with Superman when the TV show was on the air, but along came Batman which got so incredibly hot you just couldn’t believe it! Anything that had Batman on it sold, and I mean anything! The largest newsstand sale of TV Guide had Batman on the cover. Independent made Playboy a newsstand powerhouse and we also did with Family Circle. CBA: I would assume that the popularity of the show affected the stock of National. Was Jack shopping the company around? Irwin: I imagine but I don’t know too much about that end of the business. Of course, we merged with Kinney which was run by Steve Ross (whom I went to school with). Steve made all kinds of promises to me that he didn’t keep. I was on the board for a while but I left sometime in 1968. I had some personal problems and I was very unhappy with what was going on with Kinney. I just had it. We didn’t sell the company; we merged with Kinney; we traded stock with Kinney and formed a new company. CBA: Did you enjoy working in comics? Irwin: I loved it! I grew up in it and my claim to fame was that I was the first kid in the world to read both Superman and Batman. CBA: You were involved in the creative end? Irwin: Of course. CBA: Who came up with the idea of the checkers on the mid-’60s comics covers? Irwin: Me. In those days, comics were on the newsstands with vertical slots for the magazines. I wanted to have something that showed DC Comics were different than anything else. So I worked it out with Sol Harrison and put that checkerboard across the top. So wherever these magazines were displayed, you could always see a DC comic from way back. It was to distinguish us from anybody else. CBA: Did you groom Carmine Infantino to be editorial director? Irwin: No. He became that when I left. Jack Leibowitz didn’t have Summer 1999
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
anybody else so he put Carmine in that spot. I was the editorial director and he was my assistant. So I taught him every thing that I knew as we went along. CBA: Do you remember two young writers, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman? Irwin: No, they didn’t work for me. CBA: They came up with a Teen Titans story which was about a black super-hero. Irwin: That was after me. CBA: One of them says that you okayed the story that was subsequently squashed. Irwin: That wasn’t me. CBA: Do you remember when Arnold Drake and Bob Haney came to you and said they were starting a union? Irwin: [laughs] That was after me. I have no recollection of it. CBA: Did you work closely with the editors? Irwin: All the editors worked for me but I was also vice president of Independent News. I was the the only one in the whole industry that had a handle on both distribution as well as publishing. We had a field force of many men and individuals who were our representatives in big towns. Every week or month they made a report. The roving men made a report every time that they went into a town. After they wrote their reports, the section on comics came to me and I determined what our national print run was. I wasn’t just the publisher, but I was circulation director and advertising director. We were selling 7,500,000 copies off the newsstand a month—no other magazine was doing that. I knew all the trends because the road men told me, so when I saw what was happening with the romance comics, I said, “Hey! We gotta get in on this!” CBA: Through Independent, you distributed your competitors’ books so you saw the numbers as they came in, specifically Marvel. Irwin: Of course. I knew what everybody was selling, every title, every month. Marvel came from selling 1,200,000 a month and came up to about 3,500,000. I wanted to know why and we analyzed what they were doing. The thing that I noticed mostly about them, besides editorially where they were different, was that their covers were beautiful. That’s why I got a hold of Carmine Infantino and said, “I’m not happy with what we’re doing.” He and I talked about it a long time and I brought him in as my assistant. He went over every single cover and made them more important. Everybody knows that the cover sells the product. I made a book that had photos of the covers of every magazine that we published and when I got the sales reports, I put the numbers underneath the cover. So I
Above: Go-go checks and gorilla cover subjects, two of Irwin Donenfeld’s marketing decisions used for promoting DC Comics in the 1960s Joe Kubert’s cover of Star Spangled War Stories #126. ©1966 DC Comics.
Spotlight on Nick Cardy The 1998 San Diego ComiCon Panel Transcript
Below: Great Nick Cardy page of The Brave and the Bold #91. Words by Bob Haney, guest of honor at this year’s San Diego ComiCon. Nick was gangbusters during his short stint on B&B! ©1970 DC Comics.
What can you say about one of the most delightful artists ever to have work grace the comic book page? Best known for his work on the Teen Titans, Aquaman, and a long and glorious run as DC’s main cover artist during the early- to mid-’70s, Nick Cardy is a superb draftsman with an unerring eye for the sensual and the suspenseful. And he’s also a helluva nice guy. Nick received a hero’s welcome last year as a Guest of Honor of the 1998 San Diego ComiCon, and was given his own panel on August 14. What follows is a transcript of the “Spotlight on Nick Cardy” panel as moderated by Mark Evanier, and joining Nick were Colleen Doran, Marv Wolfman, and Sergio
Aragonés. Very special thanks to Marc Svensson who saved the day for CBA when I found out, midway through transcribing, that my tape was corrupted and Marc supplied his videotape. Mark Evanier: It is a joy to have this gentleman here. We decided last year that we were going to boycott the San Diego convention if they didn’t invite him, but they did. I don’t know anyone who has caused so much excitement—people come up to me and say, “I just met Nick Cardy! Nick Cardy is here!” This man drew the first comic book I ever had a letter printed in; it was in an issue of Aquaman and it was easily the stupidest letter ever printed. [laughter] I’m sure you all know his work—show your love for Mr. Nick Cardy. [sustained applause] We are joined on the panel today by some people who have worked with Nick over the years. One of his closest friends, and one of the best artists in the business, (who is responsible for A Distant Soil) Colleen Doran. [applause] And [dismissively] here’s Marv and Sergio. [laughter, applause]. Marv worked with Nick on... [to Marv] your first professional story? Marv Wolfman: Pretty much. And his last, I think. [laughter] Mark: And Sergio did a book with Nick called... Audience: Bat Lash. Mark: Which has probably set some record for a book with the least number of issues and the most people who remember it in this business. We’ll get to Bat Lash soon but I want to ask Nick a couple of questions to start with here. First, how do you feel about this convention? You’ve never been to the San Diego ComiCon before; is this amazing? Nick Cardy: Well, I’ll tell ya: If I knew that there was going to be this many people coming out to see me, I’d have learned a soft shoe dance or something—[laughter] but I’m surprised and tickled to death to find that a lot of people like my work. Mark: We’ve all loved your work and I think a lot of people feel the same way that I do: You see a certain person’s work and you feel that you know the guy. You’re always reliable and the characters have such a life, I knew that these books were drawn by a nice guy. Let’s go back and talk about your beginnings in this business. Nick: The first commercial work was doing “Lady Luck” with Will Eisner in 1940. Mark: But he didn’t start you on “Lady Luck.” Nick: Right. I was working at Eisner & Iger. They had a studio and I was working as one of the staff. In those days they didn’t have comic houses; they had little studios where they produced the stories on order from different publishers. I was in the bullpen. So when I first went in to Eisner’s studio, he said, “Well, we have a drawing table but we don’t have taborets. Go to the local grocery store and get a couple of orange crates and use them until the new taborets we ordered come in.” So I got the orange crate, and used it to place my ink and my lunch. [chuckles] Then I found out there were some guys who were working there for several years and they also had orange crates. [laughter] At that time, I was only getting about $18 a week. Mark: How old were you? Nick: I was 18 or 19. One time Iger came up to me and said, “Nick, I want you to look in your pay envelope this week. We’ve got a surprise for you.” I looked in it and found a 50¢ raise. [laughter] I spent a few years there. I did “Quicksilver” and a few Quality strips—when I look at those things now, I just wish they’d take them off the market. They’re so awful! [laughter] Really! I did nice features, COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
but I gave characters flat heads... [chuckles]. Mark: Who else was working at Eisner & Iger at the time? Lou Fine? Nick: I remember Lou Fine, George Tuska, Charlie Sultan. Bob Powell came in later when I was doing “Lady Luck.” He was sitting behind me. He would help a kid around the block—tell a newcomer to take it easy and that sort of thing. When I worked on “Lady Luck,” Will Eisner had rented an apartment at Tudor City in New York (which, at that time, were very nice apartment houses). He had one room where he worked, and the other room took up all the rest of the paraphernalia. I sat next to Will’s door, Bob Powell sat next to me; Tex Blaisdell used to come in, and Chuck Cuidera (who was doing Blackhawk) was there. Every now and then, Eisner would come out. I was sitting at that board for years. It was a learning experience. Watching Lou Fine work—his work was like a fine painting; it took a long time to do it but it was a brilliant piece of work. In my opinion, for drawing, you couldn’t beat Lou Fine; he was terrific. I think Will Eisner had a coarser line but his work was more dramatic and he told a better story. We approached it like this: A person can read a book and get a story done one way, but if you give a story to an artist, he’s like a movie director and he individualizes that story. And each artist makes a different interpretation every time. Movie directors influenced Eisner and myself. Did you ever see the movie And Then There Were None directed by Rene Clair? That’s fantastic! That’s basically the early years. Audience: You were just out of high school? It was your first job? Nick: Yeah, I was just out of high school at 18. It was my first job. Mark: At this point, what did you want to do career-wise? Were comics something to do for a couple of years? Nick: I wanted to be an illustrator, y’see. I think most of the guys wanted to be illustrators—but to be one you had to have an agent and illustration was a big competitive field. With comics, you at least had some money to eat and you could learn and develop. I used to go to museums and to the illustrator societies. And I would study the illustrators. Most of the comic artists would study other comic artists, but I wanted to be an illustrator, so I learned from the illustrators. That helped me a lot. And as I kept going along, I noticed through the years that my work changed and got very tight. Toward the end, my work got to be what I wanted. Audience: Do you recall the illustrators by name? Nick: There were quite a few artists I admired, but the first one that impressed me most was Degas (because of his design). Monet was one of my favorites. I went through the whole gauntlet. Of the illustrators, Robert Fawcett was one of my favorites. I knew of Colby Whitmore and quite a few down the line. An artist when he paints knows in what direction he wants to go; so you take a little bit from this guy—you say, “I like the way he does hair,” and you take that. After you’ve copied it a while, it dissipates and you develop your own style. It was the learning underneath that you do. Good basic design Summer 1999
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
structure. There’s a lot of artists who paint today and do comics, but they’re not telling stories. They draw individual illustrations—and they’re good! They’re brilliant—but sometimes they don’t tell a story. Mark: So you worked for Eisner and Iger, and a couple of other houses, but then you went into the War. Nick: After Eisner, I went to Fiction House and I did a few stories there (I think it was “Camilla”), and then I went into the service. Mark: Let me ask you about your war record. Nick: [chuckles] It starts like a little fish and I don’t know how long I was going to make it, y’know? One bomb could’ve been... Mark: Tell them about the honors you received. Audience: Whose army were you in? Patton’s army?
Above: The second page to the rejected “The Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho” story originally slated to appear in Teen Titans #20. Various other pages appear throughout this issue. Thanks to Jim Long for sharing his find! Jim tells us he bought this single page for $5 at a comic convention in the early ’70s! Art ©1999 Nick Cardy.
Alex Toth: Before I Forget On Frank Robbins, DC Comics’ Batman, and The Shadow
The Shadow pencil sketch by Alex Toth. Art ©1999 Alex Toth. The Shadow ©1999 Condé Nast. 30
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
Gil Kane: Man of Action A chat about Captain Action and his late ’60s DC work conducted by Jon B. Cooke
Below: Great Captain Action page, written and penciled by Gil Kane, and inked by the legendary Wallace Wood. This is from CA #5. ©1968 DC Comics.
Gil Kane, a creative force with innumerable comics publishing houses since the ’40s, is primarily known as one of the great DC Silver Age artists. Best remembered for his definitive renditions of The Atom and Green Lantern of the ’60s, Gil also did memorable stories for Joe Orlando’s mystery books by the close of the decade, and— before moving on to his own projects (His Name Is... Savage and Blackmark) and eventually Marvel (an era Gil was interviewed about in CBA #2)—the creator had a remarkable stint as writer and artist on the shortlived Captain Action series. This interview was conducted by phone on February 21, 1998 and was copy-edited by the artist.
Comic Book Artist: Did the stories get formulaic to you after a while in the mid- to late-‘60s—the “Time Pool” stories by Gardner Fox, for instance? Gil Kane: I always tried to push my own material on them and occasionally they would let me do something on my own. I wanted to do a caballero western that I had made up called Don Caballero— sort of a Zorro character—so they let me do it. I was writing that and occasionally a Johnny Thunder story. I didn’t get in there often. After Kanigher left, I got to do more, but that was later on. CBA: So you worked from full scripts? Ever make any changes? Gil: I had to fight just to get an extra panel of action! Julie had one script where virtually not even one punch was thrown. They were all puzzles—how could the Green Lantern be at two places at the same time? That’s the way that he liked it. Then I created The Atom and brought it into Julie because the westerns were dropping and I needed more work. It was a combination of Doll Man and their old Atom character and I did up some drawings and Julie showed it to somebody and it was okayed. So I did those two characters, primarily which still wasn’t enough to keep me busy. I’d occasionally do stuff for Jack Schiff. I did a lot of science fiction for Julie and those covers. CBA: Did you go into the DC offices often? Gil: I used to like going into the offices but I worked at home. I would get in about twice a week but I would make sure that I would get in early enough to do lunch. There were a million restaurants there and we’d go and argue [laughs]. There would always be Julie and whoever else was there that day, Frank Giacoia, Carmine Infantino, and a couple of other people. We would do nothing but argue and debate comics! I used to love going in for lunch. CBA: Did you debate where comics were going? Gil: Oh, I’d give them advice all of the time but they didn’t give a damn. CBA: Part of the joy and frustration about enjoying your work was finding it—you wouldn’t stay too long in any one place. Gil: I worked at DC for an unbroken period and the only trouble was when they would decide to fold a number of books because of bad sales. They didn’t do that very often. DC hardly ever made changes. In fact, some of the artists during the ‘30s were still working there in the ‘60s. George Papp, Al Plastino, Howard Sherman, Wayne Boring—all of those guys—but ultimately those guys all went out. Superman underwent enormous changes, Batman was taken away from Bob Kane (who wasn’t doing it anyhow). What I’m saying is, there was a period all through the late ‘40s and ‘50s in which I never knew a single week without work. CBA: You did long runs of Green Lantern and The Atom. Gil: As a matter of fact, I only stopped them because I started His Name Is... Savage and also managed to sell Blackmark to Bantam. CBA: With Captain Action, did you tell Julie that you wanted to write as well as draw it? Gil: He picked me to draw it but I said that I wanted to write it. Jim Shooter wrote the first two issues and after he left I lobbied for the material. Shooter was only a teenager. I had already written some westerns for Julie so he accepted my offer and it turned into one of the happiest experiences ever in comics simply because I was so selfindulgent with the writing. The girl Katherine, who plays the ghostly wife of Captain Action was modeled after my own wife. I was doing everything that I could think of doing. But mostly I gave them speeches and they were always rationalizing some point of view. I remember an eloquent speech that Dr. Evil gave at the very end, tryCOMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
“A Quiet Pitched Battle from Day One” Talking with Neal Adams on his hell-raisin’ DC days Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Neal Adams was the first—and ultimately most influential—”Young Turk” creator to arrive at an otherwise staid and dull “PostBatmania” DC Comics in the late ’60s. His ultra-realistic illustrative approach invigorated nearly every DC cover for a period and his depiction of Deadman was an instant fan favorite. A pioneer of creator’s rights, the artist helped pull the industry (kicking and screaming, some would say) into an era of increased respect for artists and writers—culminated by Adams’ 1976 victory for Siegel and Shuster in receiving their proper recognition as the creators of the character that built DC Comics. The following interview was conducted by phone on February 6 and 10, 1998, and was copy-edited by Neal.
Below: Dick Giordano (that’s the guy praying on the left) said, “Neal Adams and I were the ‘young Turks’ [at DC]. We bonded immediately and we decided to make things happen.” Neal’s the skeptical fellow on the right in this posed shot used for a 1972 fumetti story, “The Great American Dream” in Crazy #1. Thanks to Dick for the loan.
Comic Book Artist: The first work you did at DC was for Bob Kanigher. How was it working for Bob? Neal Adams: Bob is a mean, cantankerous person so I wouldn’t say that it was a pleasure, but something of a burden. [laughs] Though I must admit that I like Bob Kanigher and I think that he’s very professional in his way. I liked him then and I like him now. I think that crankiness is a very good character trait—certainly it has to be with Julie Schwartz having it as well as Bob. He was not an easy man to work with but I worked with him comfortably. CBA: Were you glad to be out of the syndicate? Neal: In fact, I had done a sample six weeks of a comic strip called Tangent and I was submitting it to get work. I was also interested in doing illustration work and took six months in which time I worked on the Tangent comic strip samples and a portfolio of painted illustrations. It was one of the goals of my life to become an illustrator—I had done illustration work before that but this was a very serious attempt. I started to take my portfolio around and left it in the care of an advertising agency and I went back a week later to get it but it was gone. So I was in a pretty bad situation because I had not sold the new strip and my whole portfolio was missing, never to have been found. It’s not as though I had saved a lot of money. I was doing some advertising work but I needed something steady, so I thought that I would try comic books in an effort to get over the hump. I went to Jim Warren’s place, met Archie Goodwin and he gave me work right away. I found Archie to be an amicable and wonderful person, probably one of the easiest people in the world to do business with. He wrote every story that I did (save one) and I was very pleased with his ability to structure a story—the concept of a beginning, a middle and an end has always pleased me. I had done an awful lot of the writing on the Ben Casey comic strip, with my syndicate’s approval, so I was very comfortable with Archie. Each story that I did was an experiment, doing one story in pencil, another in wash, another in a very comic book technique, one with radical layouts as I was given a tremendous amount of freedom to experiment. But, in a way, I was putting too much into each story. So I thought that I’d go over to DC Comics because I liked the quality of their war books. In my teenage years, Mort Drucker, Russ Heath, and Joe Kubert were the best artists at DC comics and they did war stories, so what better place for me to go and get work? After all, what else was there?
CBA: Did you comfortably adapt to the comics pages after years of syndicate work? Neal: For me, it really wasn’t restrictive at all. I considered it, in fact, freedom, and I was able to open up and blast out. I was able to do things I never had the opportunity to try before. When you’re doing daily comic strips, you have to tell a story in one strip and there are three panels to do it in, the phrase,”beginning, middle and end” has a new meaning. [laughter] That’s pretty much where you’re at and if you don’t hook ’em there, you’re dead. To get this kind of freedom was wonderful! I was totally infected by the comic book bug and I continue to be. If anybody calls me anything in my lifetime, I prefer to be called a comic book artist. CBA: Was there a period when you went overboard with layouts? Neal: I think some people who imitated me went overboard, and there still are some. There are a couple of pages that probably could have been done differently but usually those pages were the form of an experiment. Failed experiments is one of the hallmarks of my work and are grist for the mill. I’m not the type of person that goes back and does it over again because I didn’t like it, I go on and hope that people get it, and forgive my trespasses. CBA: It’s significant that you were doing experiments in a place that, in your words, was stuck in a time warp that remained 1952. Neal: There were so many things that I felt were missed at DC. There’s a realm of subtlety that sounds too artsy-fartsy but on the level that’s more clear. When I was in high school, Sol Harrison (of DC Comics) came and gave a talk. He showed us some pages of original art that made those of us who loved the stuff just faint. The pages were done twice-up, 200% of the printed page. When I started in comics, the pages were being drawn at one-and-a-half up; 150% of the printed size, and you could look at the whole page on your desk in one glance, but the twice-up, you couldn’t. It seemed to me, after my experience with comic strips, that the artist could think of the page as a single thing as well as a series of panels. So the fact that people didn’t think of the concept of designing the entire page seemed to be shocking. To sweep the eye through a page and use design in the service of telling a story, not just as an artistic endeavor, and make a person read a page faster or slower; to irritate the eye or caress it; to allow certain attitudes to build up while you’re reading a story and to fight those attitudes, is entertainment. When I look at my Batman stories, I slide through the stories like I was on butter, but when I look at my X-Men stories, I am forced to stop and look at things because of the jagged shapes that stop me and make the story longer. The impression is that the “Batman” stories are shorter and the X-Men are longer but that’s not necessarily the case. It has to do with design and how I chose to tell a story. You can lose a reader with design. For example, I did a “Batman/ Creeper” story and in the middle of that I lost the reader because I did this fancy thing with bricks falling down, with pictures on each brick. As a reader, my brain stopped with that page. It was too confusing to read. There were things that one could do that people just never thought about before and I don’t COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
Man Behind the Bat (Lash) Talking with Sergio Aragonés from Romance to Plop! Conducted by Jon B. Cooke
Above right: An early Sergio Aragonés drawing (circa 1949-51). “The guy with the hood was very much ‘taken’ from the Spanish character, Capitan Misterio by Emilio Treixas,” said Sergio. ©1999 Sergio Aragonés. Below: Three influential cartoonists. The crowd scene is by French cartoonist Dubout; the village scene by Oski; and the giraffe gag is by the renowned Mordillo, “a great European cartoonist from Argentina,” Sergio explained. All are © their respective artists.
We all know what Sergio Aragonés does—he is a cartoonist par excellence, a masterful storyteller and hilarious wit who hasn’t missed an appearance in Mad magazine in the last 37 years (okay, once! But that was the Post Office’s fault!). But what you may not know is the kind of man he is. Allow me a quick story: After my ceaseless badgering for an interview (which took place via phone on April 4, 1999) and me giving unforgiveably short turnaround time for a copy-edit of same (plus a copyedit of his participation in the Cardy Panel), I started hounding the artist for his illustrated DC comic scripts, photos, correspondence, childhood drawings, cartoons by influential artists, and notes from meetings of over 25 years ago, all no doubt buried deep in an attic somewhere. And I needed it in a day or so. Sure, I was ashamed but I’m thinking it’s for the great good—for Comics History, dammit! What I didn’t know was that Mad had assigned him the “Mad Looks at Star Wars: Episode 1” at the same time and they expanded it from something like three to seven pages. And they literally needed it in three days. But, in spite of three sleepless nights of brainstorming and unrelentless work, Sergio pulled through for CBA (all the while cursing me, no doubt), and I thank him. You are the man, Sergio. Comic Book Artist: You arrived in the United States from Mexico in 1962, and you immediately get work at Mad? Sergio Aragonés: Yeah. I went to a lot of smaller magazines but everybody kept saying, “Your cartoons are crazy enough—go to Mad.” And I went. CBA: Were you familiar with American comic books in Mexico? Sergio: Yes, but I was not a fan or serious reader of comics. I read them sporadically and I was more
familiar with the ones which were translated into Spanish (because my English was pretty bad). CBA: Did you have particular favorites? Sergio: Sure. Donald Duck by Carl Barks. The Spirit by Will Eisner (which was translated into Spanish in the ‘40s). One that I remember dearly was Blackhawk; I loved that. I was fascinated by Reed Crandall’s positioning; the hand-pointing and things like that. CBA: Were you more attracted to adventure strips? Sergio: Yes. The super-heroes were never very big with me because of my age. I was born in 1937. CBA: When I see your earlier Mad work, you seemed to have been influenced by Virgil Partch. Sergio: Oh, absolutely. Partch was one of my main influences. I got a lot of strips from Argentina in our daily newspaper so I was also influenced by a cartoonist called Oski (who also influenced Mordillo who is very popular in Europe). Mordillo did animation for a long time but he had his own strip and puzzles with zillions of people. Oski was a very good cartoonist, influencing a lot of European and Argentinian cartoonists and I was one of them. I was also very influenced by the French cartoonists who did pantomime cartoons. When I was young, pantomimes were easier to understand. CBA: Did you go directly from Mexico to New York? Sergio: I took a bus from Mexico City. To save money, I slept on the bus and I was a tourist during the day. I’d take a shower at the bus station. CBA: Did you aspire to do comic books or was it basically to break into the gag strip market? Sergio: I did gags. Comics never entered my head. I always drew comics as a kid but on my own; I never published anything. They were just my own adventures from out of my head. I drew adventure stuff—pirates and things. CBA: Did you have particular characters you created? Sergio: Yeah. I had a couple of brothers having adventures. I had a character who was very much like Zorro. I always wanted to do one like Tarzan. [laughs] But I never studied art so I didn’t know how to draw. I was always the funny guy in class so I did gags. CBA: But, along with gags, you seem to have a natural grasp of storytelling. The marginal cartoons are tiny stories unto themselves. Were you conscious of trying to be a storyteller as well as a joker? Sergio: When you do cartoons, usually the cartoon itself is a story. I was more concerned about what I was going to say than how I was going to say it. Really, the drawing didn’t make any difference; it was a few squiggles and I would say what I wanted to say. It was more that Mad wanted stories with more panels instead of one gag. I do the “Mad Looks at…” and they want more than one panel per gag because I was already doing one-panel gags in the margins. So they wanted more of a little story. There was no problem finding little tales to do in four or five panels instead of just one. CBA: Probably the most memorable piece you did, for me, was the double-page spread of Woodstock [“I Remember, I Remember the Wondrous Woodstock Music Fair,” Mad #134]. My eyes were suddenly open to your style and sheer storytelling ability. You had so much detail going on and the rendering was really fine work. Sergio: That was a series of poems written by Frank Jacobs and I just illustrated Woodstock. There was a French cartoonist called Dubout and he would do lots of drawings of very complicated city-towns COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
Country Boy from the City Howard Post spins yarns about comics and Anthro Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Hey, what did I know about Howard Post? Not much, that’s for sure. I knew he wrote and drew a syndicated strip called The Dropouts for umpteen years, worked at New York City’s School of Visual Arts (teaching on staff alongside Carmine Infantino, Sal Amendola, and the late Joe Orlando), and of course, he was the creator/writer/artist of the short-lived but eminently delightful 1968 DC comic book, Anthro. What I didn’t know was that he is a charming, engaging conversationalist with a long career in American comics. Howard is a man just chockful of wonderful and hilarious tales of the comic book days of yore. This interview took place on April 27, 1999 by telephone and was copy-edited by the artist.
Below: The “primitive artist” himself, Howard Post, as seen on the text page of Showcase #74. ©1968 DC Comics.
Comic Book Artist: Let’s start at the beginning. Are you originally from New York City? Howard Post: I was born in 1926 on the island of Manhattan, and I don’t know how much more central you can get than that. I grew up in Coney Island, Sheep’s Head Bay area, and then for a long stretch in the Bronx. CBA: What sort of childhood was it? Howard: It was beautiful. It was Tom Sawyer. The Bronx was rural and I was just a couple of miles from the Bronx Zoo. I was in that park on a regular basis, fishing, rafting, swimming, and gathering a lot of nature stuff. I seem to have been very dedicated to nature real early in the game. I’d shake bats out of trees; I’d catch crayfish; I’d go fishing with bent pins; that kind of stuff. It was beautiful on that old Bronx River. We even had otters! CBA: It seems a pretty atypical experience for kids growing up in New York City? Howard: That’s right. We had this park and I was in it all the time. After school, I’d grab my milk and cookies and race into the woods. CBA: [laughs] When did you begin your affinity for art? Howard: [chuckles] I think when I was born. I may have started rather early; just to entertain myself drawing these things. I could have been four or five. I used to draw on a piece of paper while lying on the floor, and my father would come home from work and he’d squat down next to me me and say, “The lion’s jaw is broader than that, y’know?” CBA: Did your father have an artistic background? Howard: Yeah. I didn’t know how great it was until one day after his passage I found a book of his full of dress designs he had made himself. He was in the fashion business, mostly in furs; he was a cutter. What he had drawn were his own designs for coats and dresses and they were just exquisite. He never ever let on that he could draw like that; we never knew he had that in him. He was busy making a living, as hard and fast as he could. We’re talking about bringing up a family in Depression days. CBA: Did you follow the funnies in the newspapers? Howard: I did! It was a minor
dedication, nothing obsessive. I remember Dick Tracy in the Daily News. The Journal-American had some stuff in it and we got that, too. I remember all the really attractive strips: Hal Foster and Krazy Kat, Nancy and Sluggo. It was nice. When I got older, I liked Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, and guys like that. CBA: Did you get into comic books at all? Howard: Comics, I got into it in a backwards way: My dad got sick and he had to go to a tuberculosis hospital. Suddenly I was shackled with responsibilities of caring for a family of four. I was about 16 or 17 and I had gone to school of my own volition (which I was paying for) to study animation. I actually became a delivery boy and saved money, and I went to the (now-extinct) Hastings School of Animation in New York. It was after I had seen Fantasia when I had become so obsessed with animation. A friend of mine had gone to the school and he had left to go into the Army and I figured I should catch as much learning as I could before I got drafted. So I went into that school and then my father precipitously got ill and I got deferments, almost monthly. (They never gave you a broad deferment; you had to check in every month, they would review your situation, and they would defer you on a monthly basis.) Here I was supporting a family of four so they seemed to put me at the end of the line for a while. With my knowledge of animation that I acquired at the school, I volunteered to work for Paramount and they took me on there, paying me a big $24 a week. But that wasn’t enough. CBA: Paramount had an animation studio in New York? Howard: Paramount had what was called Famous Studios, which was really Max Fleischer’s Florida studio transported to New York. I got in there as an in-betweener but it wasn’t a helluva lot of money and it wasn’t enough. This was in the early 1940s. I couldn’t make enough money and some of the guys talked about trying to sell comics to the comic book publishers, but they went out and tried but they bombed. They said, “Why don’t you try it?” So I did. I went over to L.B. Cole who was running a place and I took my stuff to him (as discretely as I could because I didn’t want to embarrass myself with Paramount). So I left it there during lunch and they rejected it. I got it back and took it across the street to Bernie Baily’s outfit (which was on 43rd St.; Lenny Cole was on 42nd St.) and Bernie bought it. But the next month, my story came out in one of L.B. Cole’s comic books as well as Bernie’s! Someone had traced off my story when I left it up at Cole’s over lunch! Would you believe it? [laughter] That was my introduction to comics. CBA: [laughs] They swiped you when you weren’t even a professional yet? Howard: Not only that: When the comic came out I found out who did it and the guy wanted me to work for him! He had just gotten a big deal to do a whole book based on my story. He gave me an advance of $800, more money than I’d ever seen in my life! [chuckles] I said I’d do it under one condition: That he just keep me in the clear. (Bernie had asked me, after seeing the story he bought in a rival comic book, “Are you selling this to everybody?” I said, “No, they traced it off on me!”) I told him to verify what happened on paper—it may never come up but as long as I had his confession for protection... He said okay because he wanted me on that job. So he gave me that piece of paper, and when Lenny Cole’s outfit found out about it—Cole’s seemed some kind of criminal outfit, into black market paper, and I heard all kinds of stuff—I got a phone call from a lady one day who said, “Post, you’d better not make any trouble for us. If you speak up against us, you’re going to be in deep trouble. We have ways of taking care of you.” [laughter] I’m 17 years old, I COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
Shadows of Reality Dennis O’Neil discusses his years at DC Conducted by Jon B. Cooke In his day, Dennis O’Neil was the most celebrated writer at DC Comics, helping to usher in a new relevant era at the company. With such artists as Neal Adams, the writer revitalized Batman, introduced sociological, political and environmental themes to such comics as Justice League of America and the highly-regarded Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and received some media attention for his efforts. Dennis continues to work for DC, now as group editor of the Batman family of comics. This interview was conducted via telephone on February 16 and March 26, 1998. It was copy-edited by Dennis.
Above: Getting ready to hit the road: Hal encounters Oliver for the first time in the pages of Green Lantern (#76) and the legendary team of Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams give readers a dozenissue (and unforgettable) run for their money. ©1970 DC Comics.
Comic Book Artist: You served in the Navy after college. Were you a civilian journalist after your duty? Dennis O’Neil: After the military hitch, I went back to St. Louis and for about a year was a substitute teacher for sixth grade to senior high school. One day a week, I drove a station wagon for my father who was a grocer. I thought that this was not what I wanted to do with my life, so I answered an ad that was in Editor & Publisher magazine for a beat reporter in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a little town about 110 miles up the Mississippi from St. Louis. I worked there for only about six months but it had such a huge effect on my life that it seems longer than it was. CBA: You were single? Dennis: I was dating a woman who would eventually become my wife. One of my tasks was to fill a children’s page every second week and that was not easy to do in a small town in the Summer when there’s no school activities. I would commute back and forth, go to St. Louis to hang out with my pals and see my girlfriend on weekends. I noticed that I started seeing comic books again so I bought a few—they were early Marvels—and I was very entertained by them. They were really a lot better than I remember these things being. So I did some crude, rudimentary investigating and got enough material
by sending letters to the addresses in the comic books and did a couple of articles on the return of comic books. Then Roy Thomas got in touch with me. As it turned out his parents subscribed to the paper. So on a Sunday afternoon driving back to Cape from St. Louis, I stopped and saw Roy, who had just accepted a job in New York in the comic book field. So I did a third article on Roy Thomas. He came over a couple of times to my apartment and hung out. We were never going to be best friends but we got along just fine. About a month after he moved to New York, he sent me the Marvel writer’s test because Stan Lee was looking for another assistant. Marvel was exploding—booming! The test was just four pages of Jack Kirby artwork from a Fantastic Four Annual only with no word balloons and my job was to add copy. I don’t even think that I drew balloons in. Why not do it? The whole thing was just strange so I did it, sent it in, and a week later I had come back from covering a suicide and got a letter from Marvel offering me a job. I was disgusted with the paper job and had gotten a call from my girlfriend—who had moved to Boston—who was stone broke because of a money screw-up so God was clearly telling me to move to the East coast. It was just too goofy not to do. CBA: So you saw comics as a pit-stop, so to speak? Dennis: I never thought about a career and never thought that far ahead. It was just an interesting thing to do. CBA: So you went to Marvel. Did you get on at the office? Dennis: It was not a wonderfully congenial environment for someone like me. [laughs] It was a very suit-and-tie place back then but I am very grateful for the six months that I worked as Stan’s assistant because that’s where I learned the basics and the scales, the rudiments of comic book writing. CBA: Could you have stayed or did you leave by mutual agreement? Dennis: It wasn’t working out. I’m not sure why and Stan isn’t sure either—I see him maybe once a year and like him very much now though I think that we’re probably miles apart in most ways—so neither of us know exactly what happened. CBA: Stan gave you the nickname, “Denny”? Dennis: Yeah. “Dandy Denny.” The first thing I did for Marvel was for Patsy & Hedy and Millie the Model, so for those I was “Denny-O” but when I graduated to “Dr. Strange,” I became “Dandy Denny.” [laughs] Could have been worse—Roy was “Rascally Roy” or “Roy the Boy.” Smilin’ Stan stuck us all with a Marvel nickname. CBA: Did you meet “Sturdy” Steve Ditko? Dennis: I ran into him at the office. Steve was going to parties back then. I would give Steve a plot for “Dr. Strange” and I’d get the artwork back after so many weeks. He probably plotted the first couple of issues. I have the worst memory in the world. My recollection is giving Steve plots but they were nothing like we do now; they were two or three paragraphs. What I didn’t know, because I was young and very dumb, was that I had lucked into one of the best storytellers in the business. I still think that Ditko is second to nobody in that aspect. He knows how to tell a story, leave room for copy, and how to leave quiet moments here and there where you can sneak in your exposition. CBA: How did you hook up with Dick Giordano? Dennis: Somebody told me that there was this guy from Derby, Connecticut, who was in town on Thursday mornings and you could go up to some office that they rented on Fifth Avenue. So I went up and talked to him and came away with an assignment. So that COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
became one of my regular freelance rounds on Thursday morning at 11:00. CBA: How did you like working for Dick? Dennis: It was wonderful. At that time, I received more freedom than I had ever had on a commercial job. By that time I had published a couple of short stories and you had considerable freedom with those but those gigs were few and far between and they weren’t going to feed the kid. Dick had a thing that I have run into only one or two times with editors—Weezie Simonson used to have it too—they never gave you a direct order or told you what to do and yet somehow they managed to get your best work. In Dick’s case it was remarkable because the pay was laughable! [laughs] I think that we were getting $4 a page at Charlton and it zoomed up to $5 before we quit. Even for the ’60s that was bad money but we worked very hard for him. Both Skeates and I did stuff that was as good as we were capable of at the time. CBA: Do you have any favorites? Dennis: There’s one thing I did called “Children of Doom” that occasionally would make people’s “Ten Best” lists. That was another emergency job and it was for Charlton Premiere which was a Showcase-like thing with something different every month. There was a psychedelic romance planned and virtually at the last minute they found out that they didn’t have rights—there was some legal reason that they couldn’t publish it—so Dick called and said that he needed a script by Thursday and he didn’t care what it was about. It had to be 20 pages. That was the first socially relevant job that I ever did. It was an anti-war piece which by today’s standards is not radical at all but at the time we were making a statement. Pat Boyette got the art assignment and something in it turned him on because he did work that was really good and interesting. CBA: How long did your Charlton stint last? Dennis: About a year. Then Dick got hired by DC and asked five of us if we would like to come along. He said, “How would you like to do exactly what you’re doing now, except make three times the money?” I didn’t need a whole lot of persuading. So we rode his coattails into DC. I don’t think that I would have ever thought to go up there looking for work. DC had this foreboding reputation as the old line comic book company. I didn’t think that they would be sympathetic to a young, quasi-hippie like me but Dick got us in and now the rest is history. CBA: So you didn’t have an inkling of the writers’ movement that took place at the time? Dennis: Paul Levitz told me about that eight years ago. At the time, I didn’t have a clue. I would have had a real problem with it. On the one hand, I had a non-working wife and a kid to support, and on the other I would have had real moral problems with being a scab. We were young and real dumb so we thought that they loved our work—that’s why they’re hiring us! Paul had told me that, no, it was because they had decided to fire most of the writers. So we were warm bodies who knew how to type. CBA: So when you replaced Gardner Fox on Justice League, you had no inkling? Dennis: For the first few months, I worked only for Dick and then he had a falling-out with the powers-that-be so he left. I had gotten introduced to Julie and he’d given me a Green Lantern story to do which I did to his satisfaction and that started a relationship. I worked for Murray Boltinoff on Challengers of the Unknown for a while and did a couple of jobs for Joe Orlando. I was a freelance writer who showed up once a week and there was nothing formal about any of the relationships. CBA: When you first came to DC, did you feel like they were hiring you guys to invigorate things and that you were a part of something? Dennis: It was just a better-paying freelance gig doing what I knew how to do. I never really thought about a career or anything like that. These were people who were willing to give me work. I took it! CBA: What was your first job at DC? Dennis: I got Bomba, the Jungle Boy. I had no objection to the assignment and as I remember it, it was kind of fun. CBA: Were you involved in the development of the Creeper? Dennis: No. Somebody else—and I never found out who—wrote Summer 1999
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
the first issue. I took it from there and changed the characterization a lot and I don’t think that Steve Ditko liked that. He never complained aloud but now looking back I don’t think that he could have liked it. CBA: So you guys didn’t co-plot at all? Dennis: No, I don’t think so. Steve is a very good professional and if he is willing to do it at all, he will do the job. There are times when he’s not willing to do it but he’ll let you know that. CBA: Steve Skeates told me that Ditko used none of his plots. Dennis: Steve was doing The Hawk and the Dove. I was like Nelson Rockefeller compared to Skeates who was a real serious hippie! I also felt that those characters, as they were conceived back then, were a losing proposition. How are you going to dramatize the dove half in the super-hero genre? Now we might have ways to do it. CBA: Why did Steve quit Beware the Creeper? Dennis: I don’t know. I would run into him at parties once in a while and I remember telling him that I had been on a peace march and he expressed disapproval of that. Steve, as I’m sure you know, is very conservative. He was not as vehement as he might have gotten later but he left very little doubt as to where he stood on the issue. CBA: How come you used the pseudonym, Sergius O’Shaugnessy? Dennis: I was doing the political stuff and was also working for Stan. I thought that I’d best keep the two professional identities separate. I was probably overreacting at the time but it seemed wise and
Above: Dennis calls his Batman story, “The Secret of the Waiting Grave,” from Detective Comics #395, “technically one of the best things that I’ve ever done.” Here’s Neal Adams’ cover to that classic issue. ©1970 DC Comics.
Sam J. Glanzman Interview The Autobiography of Sam J. Glanzman Conducted by Jon B. Cooke with Don Mangus CBA is proud to present our special tribute to Sam J. Glanzman, one of the more underrated cartoonists of our time. While much of our section focuses on his work for the Joe Kubert-edited DC war comics in the late-’60s/’70s, Sam has had a diverse career throughout the history of comics, with memorable stays at Dell (Kona) and Charlton (The Lonely War of Willy Schultz). He still works in the field (notably as inker for the Joe R. Lansdale/Tim Truman Jonah Hex graphic novels and mini-series). CBA thanks Sam and Don Mangus (quite possibly Sam’s number one fan) for their help and their patience as this section finally sees print (as it was originally intended—as were many interviews in this issue—for CBA #1) and we hope it does them justice. The following interview was conducted through the mail in November, 1997. “…Glanzman was a bit of a maverick, freelancers used to caution each other that they’d better use pseudonyms when moonlighting for upstart publishers, lest they offend their principal employers (when Mike Esposito and Gene Colan first started working for Marvel they were Mickey Demeo and Adam Austin), so Sam, to conceal his defection, had Charlton call him ‘D.C. Glanzman’…” — page 111, The Comic Book Heroes by Gerard Jones and Will Jacobs, 2nd Edition, 1997.
Below: Pages from Sam’s wartime journal which aided him in his outstanding U.S.S. Stevens series for DC editor Joe Kubert’s war books. ©1999 Sam J. Glanzman.
Comic Book Artist: Is the above quote accurate? Sam J. Glanzman: The quote is absolutely wrong. Some of these so-called “historians” either don‘t do their homework, or are getting their facts not from the horse‘s mouth, but rather from the horse‘s ass. The D.C. Glanzman working for Charlton was my kid brother, David Charles Glanzman, who is not an artist, but who did some writing for Charlton. Secondly, I was doing work for Charlton, Dell and Gilbertson (the Classics Illustrated line), all at the same time,
at one point, and no one said beans about it. No one “cautioned” me, as the quote states. I never heard such a thing. Who the hell makes this stuff up? CBA: When did you start working for DC Comics? Sam: I’m pretty much a disorganized guy, I never kept accurate books and no longer have any of my old comic books. As far as I can remember, I started with DC in the late ‘60s. CBA: How was Dick Giordano as an editor at Charlton? Sam: I don’t quite understand the question. As a person, he was as likable as anyone, neat in appearance, and business-like. An editor, that was his title, and to me, he was just a guy to turn my work over to. We didn’t fight and we didn’t hold hands! CBA: When did you start working in comic books? Sam: I did my first job in 1940-1941. It was “The Flyman,” and the job included story, pencils, inks, and lettering at $7.50 a page. I was 16 or 17 at the time. CBA: Who is “Sam Decker”? Sam: Yours truly! During the war in Europe, a lot of people were blaming the Jews for Hitler‘s war. Weird, right? But true! Anyway, Glanzman is a Jewish name. Louis (“L.S.”), my older brother, and I used the name “Decker,” my mother’s maiden name, to get past some prejudiced bastards in comics. CBA: What comic books did you draw before World War II? Ron Goulart’s The Great History of Comics credits you with an “Amazing Man” story for Centaur. Sam: So who the hell is this fellow, Ron Goulart? Anyway, the guy is wrong, wrong, wrong! My older brother, Louis Glanzman, (a.k.a. “L.S.G.”, or “L.S. Decker”), drew the "Amazing Man,” not me!!! CBA: What’s the tale behind the start of the U.S.S. Stevens series? Sam: How it came to be published, is that what you mean? Well, I offered it to DC when Robert Kanigher was the editor and he turned it down. Later, I tried again, when Joe Kubert was made the editor around 1968. Joe liked it, and that was that. CBA: How frequently would you talk with Kubert? Sam: About as much as I did with any editor, just enough to say, “Hi, here’s the job,” and “Bye.” It was only later, when Joe was no longer my editor, that I visited him at his school and got to know him well. CBA: Did you visit the DC offices regularly? Sam: Only to pick up or turn work in. I never hung around to B.S. or kiss ass. CBA: What did you think of the “Make War No More” emblem that ended every DC war story for a time? Sam: Nothing. CBA: Did you receive assignments in bunches, or did you simply deliver stories? Sam: I don’t know what you mean by “bunches.” Sometimes, I’d have Charlton and Dell jobs at the same time, if that‘s what you mean. Also, once a month I'd have this job from Outdoor Life magazine, a feature called “This Happened To Me.” That “bunched” up, as you say, with my monthly DC “Haunted Tank” job. Incidentally, that Outdoor Life job was a sweetheart! It was just like a comic book page, only it paid eight times as much as a comic book page! CBA: Did you write full scripts for approval? Sam: No! I do my stories in thumbnails. About the only things ever changed by editors, or corrected, were my spelling and punctuation. CBA: Did you have story conferences with Kubert? Sam: No. COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
CBA: The U.S.S. Stevens story “Toro” was atypical, in that unlike most of the other Stevens tales, it was a five-page story rather than the usual four-pager. Were you given the extra space for this story by the editor, Archie Goodwin? Sam: Like all my stories, I just did it. I don't recall the reason for the fivepagers. Perhaps I was asked to do a fivepager, then again, perhaps I just did a five-pager and Archie put it in as such. CBA: The few stories that you did for the Goodwin-edited issues were quite sensitive: “Toro,” “The Islands were Meant for Love,” etc. Was Archie a good editor? Sam: There you go again! Wad'da ya' mean “a good editor”? Archie was as good or as bad an editor as anyone. I really don't understand that question. I can only assume by the question, that some artists have found some editors as nice guys, or as bastards. Perhaps I was fortunate in that I just met the nice guys. I never had a run-in with any of ’em. I always made my deadline. That was my job an’ I guess that made ’em happy. CBA: Kubert would sometimes redraw your panels, did you have concerns about that? Sam: Hell no! Actually, Joe only did it once, on one panel. Are you kidding? I was very pleased, you might even say honored. I respect Joe as an artist. Yeah, and he's a nice guy, too. CBA: Did Kubert ever do pencil work, which you subsequently inked, on any U.S.S. Stevens stories? Sam: No! Much as I like Joe and his work, I wouldn‘t want him, or anyone, to have anything to do with the Stevens [stories], ’ceptin’ the lettering. CBA: How was Joe Kubert as an editor? Sam: Again, with the editor crap! Joe was fine. Actually, Joe was the only one who ever said “Nice job Sam,” or “Bad job, Sam.” The other editors simply reached across the desk and took the jobs I handed them. Joe was helpful. Back to your question, I think I’m beginning to know what you want to know, but I can’t answer you, ’cause who am I to judge? CBA: Did you ever meet the other artists on the DC war books, such as: Russ Heath, Ric Estrada, John Severin, Frank Thorne, Ken Barr, or Alex Toth? Sam: No! I never hung around the offices long enough, or if I did, it was probably such a short encounter that I just don’t remember. CBA: Was there a real “Captain T. A. Rakov,” “Ox Swanson,”or “Buck Taylor”? Sam: Yes! Only it was Lt. Comm. Rakov and yes, an Ox and Buck. I kept changing their last names for reasons of my own. Buck was really “Asiatic,” or “whack-o” to you, if you don’t understand the first expression. CBA: The U.S.S. Stevens story “Kamikaze” ranks as one of your most profound stories. You served in the United States Navy against one of the most tenacious and vicious enemies in its history, the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces. Yet, in this four page story, you revealed a sensitive understanding of the Japanese pilot’s motive in his suicide mission. Didn’t you hate the enemy, knowing the carnage of Okinawa? Sam: If I hated the enemy or not, what has that got to do with my writing something bad, or something good, about the ”enemy“? I hope I am not guilty of grouping a class of people as good or bad. The story “Kamikaze” was about an individual Kamikaze (there is no plural or “s” on kamikaze), who were brave, valiant, and loyal warriors. Summer 1999
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
And yes, Okinawa was hell, as was Bataan, as was Iwo Jima, as was... you name it! CBA: When did you perceive the human face of the Künko warrior? Sam: Künko means “brave.” I believe the first dead Japanese warrior I saw was on... what island? I don‘t remember, only God knows. Anyway, this human being, a Japanese (I could still see the tattered remnants of his uniform) was flattened out on a jungle dirt road, face up and trucks and tanks were still rolling over him. Perhaps you’ve seen a dead rabbit, squirrel or frog squashed flat. Think of it, a human being, squashed flat on a dirt road, face up, trucks rolling over him, with other human beings(?) pissing on him and laughing... and somewhere, in a distant land, a mother is praying for her son! CBA: Did you keep a diary while in the Navy? Sam: I started one, if you could call it a diary. CBA: Was it a “blueprint” for your stories? Sam: Not really. My son, in Washington, D.C., got me a copy of the ship’s log on microfiche. It brought back many memories I’d forgotten. CBA: What's the story behind the two Marvel graphic novels, “A Sailor's Story”and “Winds, Dreams and Dragons,” your autobiographies of your U.S.S. Stevens years? Did Marvel editor Larry Hama appreciate your DC work and actively approach you for these projects? Sam: Jim Shooter and Larry Hama were talking ’bout something. One day, while I was in the office, Shooter said something to Larry, and then he walked out, at which time Larry turned to me and said something like, “How's about doing a graphic novel, Sam?” “What about?” says I. “Anything,” says he. “How about your time at sea aboard ship?” “Okay,” I said, and that was that. I don’t know if Larry appreciated me (as you asked), but in my appreciation of him, I gave Larry the cover from my second graphic novel, “Winds, Dreams and Dragons.” CBA: Did the graphic novels grow out of your Savage Tales magazine stories? Sam: No! The Savage Tales stories, “Of War and Peace” by “Mas” (Sam spelled backwards), had nothing to do with the graphic novels. CBA: Did DC editor Kim Yale approach you for the “Home of the Brave” story in the Sgt. Rock Special? Sam: About Kim Yale; she was a real sweetheart. I hadn’t worked for DC for some time, when Kim (who I’d never met, or even heard of) called and asked if I would do a U.S.S. Stevens story for her. I said, “Yes, how many pages?” She replied, “Ten.” My answer was then, “O.K., but I don't know what it’ll be about." Kim just said, “Do it.” So, I just did it, story, pencils, inks, and letters. All the time I was working on it, Kim hadn’t the slightest idea what it was going to be about, until I sent her the completed, finished job. That’s how much confidence she
Left: Singular instance of editor Joe Kubert redrawing a Glanzman panel (the fourth panel). From the story, “A Nightmare,” from Our Fighting Forces #139. ©1974 DC Comics.
Below: Sam Glanzman and his “Lucky” dog at the Ramapo Comic Con XIII this past May. Photo by Mike Gartland.
continued on page 68 63
Skeating on Thin Ice Talking with Steve Skeates about his DC Years Conducted by Jon B. Cooke
Steve Skeates (pronounced “skates”) made a memorable impression as a “Young Turk” new writer at DC in the late ’60s/early ’70s, especially on Aquaman as part of the “S.A.G.” team (Skeates as writer, Jim Aparo as artist, and Dick Giordano as editor). He received two Shazam! awards for his scripts of “The Poster Plague” (the Sergio Aragonés-drawn House of Mystery story which led to the development of Plop!) and “The Gourmet” (drawn by Bernie Wrightson and appearing in Plop! #1). This interview was conducted by phone on December 9, 1997, and was copy-edited by Steve.
Above: Special for CBA! Steve Skeates illo of the writer doing his Aquaman thang! ©1999 Steve Skeates.
Comic Book Artist: How did you get involved in comics? Steve Skeates: I really liked the early Stan Lee Marvel comics—particularly Iron Man—and that’s what got me into thinking about writing for comics. I just came upon them at one time and the covers looked different than anything I’d ever seen on the stands. I bought one and liked it so I hunted out the rest of the Marvel line while I was in college. I was facing graduation so I was applying to newspapers for reporting jobs and I decided, why not send out letters to what I figured were the four major comic book companies? I got a call from Stan Lee and, based on my letter, he hired me as an assistant editor over the phone! It was a strange, serendipitous situation where I wrote the letter in more or less comic book form. I was unaware that Stan had run an ad in The New York Times looking for people to apply for a job, asking them to make their applications in comic book form. I didn’t know that he had done that and probably if I had known I probably would have overdone it! I kept the job for a couple of weeks and then I found out that being an assistant editor meant being a glorified proofreader which was fine with me but my proofreading wasn’t fine with them. I was just terrible. So they suggested that I move over to just being a writer for them which I did for a while doing westerns. Then I got a job doing stories for Tower Comics. I was just moving too slowly at Marvel. They had me on the westerns and they didn’t trust me doing any of the super-hero stuff yet. There just weren’t enough westerns to make a good living at, especially living in New York City. CBA: So you went for the Tower interview while you were still working for Marvel? Steve: I stole a couple of make-readys—the black-&-white stats— from Marvel that had my name on ’em and had not been published at that point and took them during the noon hour while everybody was out at lunch. I grabbed a couple and took them over to Tower to show them my name. I got the job and snuck the stats back in before anyone came back from lunch! I spoke with Samm Schwartz at Tower, who came from Archie Comics and he knew that kind of comic but didn’t know what he was doing super-hero-wise. Basically Woody [Wally Wood] was the acting editor of THUNDER Agents, anyway. At that point, Marvel had a rule that if you worked any place
else, you didn’t work for them. So once I started working for Tower, Marvel let me go. Stan Lee called me into his office and said, “We understand that you’re working for Tower, so you’re no longer working here.” Stan was pretty firm about it. I was out of there. So, I got a freelance writing job and I did all but two of the “Lightning” stories, some “NoMan” stories, the “THUNDER Squad,” and Undersea Agents. These were full script jobs. I enjoyed the tenpage format and the lighter copy which took a while to get used to. My first “Lightning” stories have the characters peeking out from behind the balloons because I was so used to the Marvel style. They used lettering that was much larger than what Marvel used. I would just turn in my scripts and not really closely work with any artists. I did work with Woody on a couple of things including “Double for Dynamo,” and I would occasionally do a conference with Woody. Woody was a fun guy to work with—totally irresponsible! Mike Sekowsky did most of my “Lightning” stories and Chic Stone later took over from him but I never talked to either one of them. CBA: Did you hang out with the other young writers? Steve: In the later ‘60s, I remember hanging out and getting together with Denny O’Neil, Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas. Somewhere in there, Conway and Mike Friedrich showed up. I lived in New York City for a short time, during the time I worked for Marvel, Tower and Charlton. As soon as The Hawk and the Dove and Aquaman started, I moved to Alfred, New York. The rumors had started, but I stayed on at Tower until the bitter end. I went to a convention during that time and I was the only person working for Tower at the con so I was asked to appear on a panel. Dick Giordano was on that panel and so once I had heard that Tower was folding I called up Dick and said, “Remember me?” So that’s how I got work at Charlton. CBA: Did you meet the other Charlton artists? Steve: I’m not sure if it was at the Charlton N.Y. office or at some party, but at some point along that time I met Steve Ditko. He was quiet, sort of introverted. He was very stand-offish. He was there and I said a few things to him but there was not a conversation. I really enjoyed working with Jim Aparo on “Thane of Bagarth” at Charlton. It was a back-up in Hercules. It was a Prince Valiant type thing but it was based on Beowulf. It was done in a pseudo-archaic language with really nice artwork. Dick, me and everybody went over to DC but I still kept doing work for Charlton. So did Jim Aparo. I liked Dick as an editor. At Charlton, he was so over-burdened with all this stuff and, as long as we didn’t go insane, he pretty much left us on our own. So that was a great learning experience because if we did something wrong that wasn’t caught, we’d be embarrassed enough not to do that again. It was an enjoyable way to learn how to do the work. Dick rarely asked for changes because he was overseeing so much. I remember one time after he probably hadn’t read any of his romance comics in about a year—he was just accepting jobs from people he thought were doing a good job—and when he finally read one he saw that the guy who was writing it had gotten so poetic that the stuff made no sense at all! Dick went through the roof and said, “How long has he been doing this?!” It was probably impossible for him to read them all. CBA: You didn't seem keen on doing super-heroes. Steve: I loved doing the westerns at Charlton because they were a lot different from the almost TV-like westerns at Marvel. The Charlton westerns were grim and gritty stories about aging gunfighters who were not having a great time. It was a lot of fun, primal stuff COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
that I really enjoyed writing. I wrote at least a dozen Kid Montana stories and I really enjoyed doing those. I loved the “Captain Doom” stories. He was a one-armed guy who wore a Civil War Confederate outfit, riding around getting into trouble—and trying to settle down but being unable to. Most people wanted to do Batman but I really never had the desire. The super-heroes that I got into were really fringe characters in one way or another. Aquaman basically didn’t have a secret identity. The same with Plastic Man. So I liked that aspect of those two. And the Teen Titans were teenagers and I think that the concept of superheroes is such an adolescent idea anyway that it fit. CBA: How did you hear about the DC gig? Steve: Dick got in touch with us—the only one I’ve ever discussed this with was Denny—and Dick just called us up and said, “We’ve got this offer to work for DC and there’s a lot more money in it. I’m moving over there. Do you want to go?” I was a little bit trepidatious about it because I had applied for work at DC previously and I had not gotten anywhere. I felt that these people were not creative and that DC was a non-creative businesslike thing. This was during the period when they were basically embarrassed to be doing comics. Hiding behind the name of National Periodicals, rather than DC Comics so you didn’t know what they did behind those doors. I tried out for editorial position with Mort Weisinger and his whole attitude was just a turn-off and the fact that they didn’t hire me was even more of a turn-off. So the idea of working for them later on bothered me but since it was Dick, I thought, “Why not?” CBA: Was it a package deal? Steve: It sort of felt like a package deal but a rather loose one at that. I wasn’t being told to move and Dick was just suggesting it. CBA: What books did you first work on at DC? Steve: Dick basically had two books for me and Denny. One apiece. They were Aquaman and Bomba the Jungle Boy. We were supposed to drop in at DC and meet with Dick in his new office at some point—we were given a week or so to do that. I got in there the day before Denny did and was given the choice. I chose Aquaman. If Denny had beaten me into the office, I would have ended up with Bomba. As soon as that book fell apart, Denny started working more and more for Julie. After we started working there, I got the feeling that things were finally changing at DC. When I heard we were going over, I thought that we were just going to be absorbed into their house style. CBA: Dick seemed like the hot editor of the day. Steve: There was some point where Dick beat out Stan Lee as editor of the year at the Alley Awards. I remember that being a big deal and everybody celebrating. CBA: Was there any overall planning by DC? Steve: We occasionally would have big editorial or story conferences. I remember we were in a room with a long table and I would be there, Denny, Dick, Carmine and everybody who worked there. Just creative—editors and writers. It was always the idea of changing the direction of something. Quite often it would be something that I had no control over or anything to do with yet I would end up at these meetings. One was about changing the direction of Superman and I never worked on Superman! Why was I there? They discussed how they could change this or that. CBA: Were there many creative constraints at DC? Steve: There was quite a bit of freedom but there was also things that you had to get used to. At Charlton, I never wrote a plot outline. I just brought in a completed script and sold it. Suddenly I had to plot my Aquaman stories and I had to get used to that but it didn’t seem like much of an imposition. At one point, Aquaman was selling really well and yet no one at the office was reading it. We were just off in our own little corner doing our own little thing. Fans were reading it but our peers weren’t reading it at all. CBA: What was the genesis of The Hawk and the Dove? Steve: It was developed by committee. There was Dick, Carmine, Ditko and me. Carmine came up with the title and he attended all the meetings. Part of the concept was to directly appeal to, I don’t know, the counter-culture. My main contribution was that they had to say their names to change into the characters. They were trying to come up with a “Shazam,” a magic word and I said, “Why don’t we Summer 1999
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
have them just say their character names?” They went along with that. I also created the community in which they lived, the college town. Steve Ditko came up with the major concepts, the costumes, the powers, the characters— just about everything. The judge was definitely his idea. CBA: Were there changes made in your stories? Steve: It was strange. A lot of changes would happen after I turned in a script. Quite often, my idea of what to do with the Dove was have him do brave stuff and then it would be changed by either Dick or Steve into the Hawk doing that stuff. They’d say it was out of character for the Dove. They seemed to be equating Dove with wimp, wuss, coward or whatever. And I don’t really think it was because they were more hawkish. I just don’t think that they knew what a dove was. There was all sorts of problems along those lines but since I was doing it from a distance—I was upstate living on a college campus, which is why I made it a college town—so, basically any complaint I had would be after the fact. As a matter of fact, Ditko and Denny would have more fights over Beware the Creeper than I had with Steve over The Hawk and the Dove. That’s because Denny was right there and would go in, complain and yell at Dick or Steve. What could I do long distance? Complain about the book after it was published? Fait accompli. There were all sorts of problems with the Showcase issue. Although a lot of people have said that they really like that issue, I think a major problem with it was that Dick was trying to please the Comics Code. One of the rules was that you couldn’t question authority so every time I had the Dove say something against the U.S. government, Dick would change that to some sort of nebulous “they.” To me it comes off as terribly written with a lot of pronouns without any nouns that they are referring back to. CBA: Was it more comfortable working on the title after Steve left? Steve: Once Steve left and Gil Kane came in I tried to bring the conflict to a head and change the direction of the book by making the Dove such a loser that he had to change. Gil never understood where the characterization was going and thought I was a raving hawk myself! I felt that the only way to solve the problem that had been set up in the series was to take it to its absolute worst and bring Dove to the breaking point and bring him back up from there. That was where I was going but the book didn’t stay around long enough
Above: Unpublished/altered Aquaman #44 cover by Nick Cardy. Look close now! ©1968 DC Comics.
Breaking into the Ranks Interview with Marv Wolfman on his early DC days Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Below: Another page from the rejected Teen Titans #20 story, “The Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho,” co-written by Marv and drawn by Nick Cardy. See CBA #1 for a detailed article on the controversial incident. Teen Titans ©1968 DC Comics.
Marv Wolfman is probably best recalled for his exceptional, long run scripting Tomb of Dracula for Marvel throughout the ’70s, and for his development of The New Teen Titans in the ’80s. The writer also had a shortlived (but fondly-recalled by this editor) team-up with Gil Kane as the writer/artist team on Superman in the early ’80s. Marv served a number of editorial positions at both DC and Marvel, notably as editor-in-chief of Marvel. This interview was conducted via telephone on February 9, 1998. It was copy-edited by Marv.
Comic Book Artist: Where you a big DC fan as a kid? Marv Wolfman: I’ve been a DC fan since the early ‘50s when Superman first started as a TV show. I had never seen anything like that show before—remember, I was just a little kid and there was nothing else on TV remotely like it. At the end of the show there was the legend “Superman is based on the copyrighted character appearing in Superman and Action Comics magazines.” As soon as the show was over my friend and I rushed and brought our first comic books—either Action Comics or Superboy. I don’t know what I expected but they were wonderful. I was immediately hooked and began to collect them. That grew into wanting to write and draw my own comics which led to my becoming a professional. CBA: When did you first meet up with Len Wein? Marv: I was in junior high school and I had a letter published in Mystery in Space. Somebody named Ron called me who had tracked down my number from the address in the letter column. He lived in Levittown and I was living in Queens. As it turned out, purely by a comic book-like coincidence, my sister lived in Levittown and I was coming out to visit her the very next day. So Ron and his friend Len came to meet me and that was the beginning. CBA: Were you a regular letter hack? Marv: Not as big as some but I certainly wrote an awful lot of them. It was fun to see my name in print but I really wanted to give my opinions of what I’d read. Whatever else people may say about me, they know I always have an opinion, even if I have no idea what I’m talking about. Seeing your name in print as a kid certainly was a kick and where else back then could you do that? There were letter columns back in the old DC Comics but for a long time there were no addresses, just name and city. Julie Schwartz, however, came from fandom and helped found science fiction fandom. He made it possible for comic fans to get in touch with each other. I was sent copies of the only two fanzines published at the time (Rocket’s Blast and The Comic Reader) because my address was in the letter column and within a few months I became a contributor. I was one of the few fans living in New York who visited the DC offices on a regular basis. CBA: You started as an artist, though.... Marv: Yeah, but I contributed to fanzines as both a writer and an artist. Back in the ’60s DC gave tours of the offices every Thursday. My high school—the High School of Art & Design—was only about six blocks from DC so I would go over to the offices after school and take the tours. I got to know everybody and find out what was happening in the comics. Back then, there were so few fans that it was considered a novelty and they got a kick out of it. They would tell me what was going on and then I would send a letter to the Comic Reader and give them the news. This was important because there were no weekly newszines or Internet chat groups like today so whenever I would do a report, the zines would print it. CBA: What was the purpose of these tours? Was it that if a kid crashed on Monday and was annoying, they would say, “Come on down on Thursday and we’ll show you the place”? Marv: They just did tours, I don’t know why. They had somebody who would take you around and show you where the editors worked. It was a very tiny office at the time. They would bring you to the production department where two artists worked all of the time—then it was Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. They had regular tables and were there nearly every single time we toured. So you got to know the professionals. This was early on in fandom and no one had ever paid attention to the pros before so it must have been a big kick for them and they enjoyed it. Also, although we COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
An Illegitimate Son of Superman Talking with Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Len Wein blossomed as a writer at DC Comics during the early ’70s, arguably reaching his nadir with the oft-remembered Swamp Thing. (For Len’s recollections on the genesis of Swamp Thing, please refer to the article, “A Tale from the Swamp,” in CBA #1.) He also had a very memorable stint as scribe on the Jim Aparo-drawn Phantom Stranger series just before arriving on Swampy. Since those heady days, Len wrote nearly the entire Marvel line at one time or another and even served as Editor-in-Chief for a spell. This interview was conducted by phone on February 5, 1998 and was approved by Len. Comic Book Artist: How did you get involved with DC? Len Wein: Back in the early and mid ‘60s, DC would have an office tour on Thursdays. I was relatively local—I lived on Long Island—and I would go into the city to take the tour at least once a month, sometimes more often. Marv Wolfman often came with me, so we became familiar to the folks up there. From the time I was in eighth grade, I knew that I wanted to be in the comics business—as an artist. One of my junior high school art teachers actually told me that I had artistic talent, so I said, “Oh, good. I’ll be a comic book artist!” CBA: Who was your favorite artist? Len: At that point, Jack Kirby. CBA: So you were into Marvel as well as DC at the time. Len: As a reader, I used to collect everything. CBA: Were you from the same neighborhood as Marv? Len: Not completely. We lived about 20 miles apart—he was in Queens and I was on Long Island. We met through the letter column of Mystery in Space. Another friend and I were looking for relatively local comic fans to start a fan club to get together and share our common interests. So this friend and I saw Marv’s name and address in the column and decided to call him. Coincidentally, I lived in Levittown, the cliché of the east, and so did Marv’s older sister. He was coming out to visit her that weekend, so we got together and became friends. That was many, many, many years ago. CBA: What were the DC offices like at the time? Len: A guy named Walter from the production department conducted the tour every Thursday at noon and Marv and I became fixtures there. We would walk through the production department, look at the art on the wall, and marvel at just being there in the heart of the comic book business. That’s were I first met Julie Schwartz, Neal Adams, and many other people. CBA: Did Mark Hanerfeld— Len: Mark was one of us. Marv, Andy Yanchus, myself and Mark (along with others whose names you won’t recognize—they led normal lives) formed our own fan club called TISOS—The Illegitimate Sons of Superman. CBA: [laughs] What was the atmosphere like in the office? Len: It was a business. Everyone wore jackets and ties—it was like a grown-up place to go as opposed to what we turned it into in later years. Frequently, the editors would ask us what we thought of some artwork or upcoming project. It was very odd for them to have guys our age showing up all the time, so they started to recognize us and solicited our opinions. Though I don’t think that we made an ounce of difference in their decisions until we actually became a part of the company. CBA: Did you strike up a rapport? Len: I guess I must have because they didn’t fire me. We spoke to Summer 1999
COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
Julie, Jack Miller (who was a very dear man) and a few others up there on a fairly regular basis. CBA: When did you start submitting work? Len: By the time I was in junior high and Marv was a year or so older, we decided that we were going to work together on things and so we worked on various fanzines. Dick Giordano over at Charlton seemed to be very accessible at that point, so we put together some samples and hoped to get some work. It took us so long to actually put the samples together that by the time we were ready to submit it, Dick had already moved to DC. CBA: Were you into organized fandom? Len: You’re kidding, right? I helped throw the first comics convention in New York! You’re talking to the man who coined the phrase, “ComiCon.” In 1964, our guests were Tom Gill (who drew the Lone Ranger newspaper strip), Steve Ditko (believe it or not), Flo Steinberg (Marvel’s secretary) and one dealer in the back of the room, some guy named Phil Seuling. It was a oneday convention held on a Saturday. There was a fair turnout. Ron Fradkin, Bernie Bubnis and I organized it. CBA: Roy Thomas didn’t suggest you for the job to Dick? You just went up to DC? Len: We were so amateurish, Marv and I went up there one day with our samples to see Dick, but we didn’t even make an appointment. We just showed up at the door at 575 Lexington Avenue and, of course, we picked the day that Dick was out sick. We were standing there looking all forlorn when back from lunch comes Carmine Infantino and Joe Orlando. They looked at us and our portfolio, asked what were were doing there, and we told them that we wanted to be in the business. Carmine said, “Show your samples to my boy Joey here and if he likes it, you guys are in.” So Joe took our portfolio back to his office and we sat through the longest halfhour of our lives waiting. Finally he
Below: As Joe Orlando revealed in CBA #1, the mystery book host-siblings, Cain and Abel, were based physically on writer Len Wein and assistant editor Mark Hanerfeld, respectively. Here the “brothers” grin for the camera during a visit to the Rutland Vermont Halloween parade (and subsequent party at Tom Fagan’s mansion!). Thanks to Mark for loan of the picture.
Like a Bat Out of Hell Chatting with Bernie Wrightson, DC’s Monster Maker Conducted by Jon B. Cooke Bernie Wrightson epitomizes the “New Blood” that arrived at DC in the late ’60s and then-editorial director Carmine Infantino’s ability to recognize extraordinary talent. Along with Mike Kaluta, Bernie began as a somewhat crude (if obviously talented) artist empowered with an intense enthusiasm for the art form, and he flowered at DC to become an exceptional world-class artist of enormous capability. Before moving on to Warren to create some of his finest achievements (which were explored in his interview in our last issue), Bernie left a lasting impact on Joe Orlando’s mystery books, most notably on the Orlando-Wein-Wrightson-Saladino masterpiece, Swamp Thing. This interview was conducted by telephone on March 15, 1998 and it was approved by the artist. Special thanks are owed to the aforementioned Michael Wm. Kaluta.
Below: The contemplative Wrightson. Art ©1999 Bernie Wrightson.
Comic Book Artist: Did you always have an interest in comics? Bernie Wrightson: When I was a kid of six or seven, I read the EC horror comics off the stands. My mother didn’t know about them or she would have ripped ’em up and thrown them out! There was a candy and cigar store down the street that had a big display window with little window seats. A whole wall of this place was covered with comic books, and I went there with friends. Of course, the first thing I gravitated to was the horror comics, and it didn’t take long to realize that the EC comics were the best. They also rented comics for 2¢ each and you could sit in the window and read them, so it was a babysitting service for the neighborhood. If I found one that was particularly disturbing, I’d buy it. Haunt of Fear #27 was under the mattress of my bed for about a year before my mother found it. I read that thing to tatters like it was pornography! It was a forbidden fruit and that issue with the classic Ingels cover and the lead story, “About Face” really grabbed me. It was so f*cking twisted! I loved it! It was almost like a drug; I had to have more and more of it because it would last long. CBA: So you started drawing? Bernie: I’ve been drawing for as long as I remember. I went to Catholic school and have vivid memories of getting into trouble for drawing in my textbook—always, always pictures of monsters. It wasn’t just the comics because in 1952 they re-released the old Universal monster movies to television. We had the horror host, Dr. Lucifer, who was played by this old B-western actor, Richard Dix, who was on his last legs doing this Shock Theatre thing. CBA: When did you see comic books as a possibility for a job? Bernie: Probably in the mid-’60s when they reprinted some of the ECs in those Ballantine paperbacks with the great Frazetta covers and I remembered that this was the stuff that really creeped me out as a kid. By then, I was old enough to realize that someone actually drew these and then I became interested in finding out who these people were. I could recognize the styles and differentiate. What really got me into it was seeing
the stuff in black-&-white as drawings instead of this totally finished, fully colored thing in a comic book. I could see that these pictures were made of lines which had never really occurred to me previously. CBA: You were self-taught? Bernie: I never went to art school but I took that artists correspondence course and it really was a good course. I took the illustration course which was founded by Albert Dorne, Robert Fawcett, Norman Rockwell—really the top guys—and the instruction books were filled with drawings by these guys. You could see the process how they worked. CBA: Drawing is a terribly solitary act; did you reach a point when you had to decide whether you’d choose a social life or just sit alone and draw? Bernie: My friends were out dating, having fun, hanging out and learning how to be real, regular people and I stayed home and drew. Because drawing was my passion and my total focus, it was all that I wanted to do. To this day, 50 years old, I’m still an emotional retard. I have the hardest time relating to people and still have a hard time getting a date! I literally played hooky the day they gave this information out at school. I was a complete willing outcast. CBA: When I first saw your work, I thought that you were a Golden Age artist. Bernie: A lot of people come up to me at conventions and say, “Oh my God! You’re a lot younger than I expected!” They expect me to be in my 70s. CBA: Your work seems to have a singular reverence to the work of premier EC artist Graham Ingels. Bernie: It wasn’t just Ghastly; it was Frazetta and Jack Davis. I was lucky. I got attracted to these old school, top of the line guys. My drawing background comes more out of illustration than out of comic books. Myself, Kaluta, Jeff Jones—basically the whole Studio— came out of an older tradition like storytelling pictures. I was just always attracted to the art. CBA: How did you find out that there were people like you out there? Bernie: I was in an art show in Baltimore, an outdoor thing, and anybody who could lift a brush could enter work in this thing. It was around a big reservoir and you hung your pictures on this metal fence. I had these huge paintings I did after getting into the Frazetta paperback covers and it was barbarians, vampires, blood and gore, and really creepy sh*t. This 13-year-old kid came up and started talking about horror comics. I was 17 and I’m thinking that he was awful young to remember the horror comics and he said, “Oh, I have a complete set of EC Comics.” So he invited me over—he was the son of a rich doctor—and sure enough, he had a complete run. Needless to say, we became best friends and I was up there every weekend. That’s when I realized that I had just scratched the surface of EC—I hadn’t seen nearly any of them! Anyway, he told me about this convention in New York where Frazetta was going to be guest of honor and I scraped together train fare. That’s were I met Kaluta, Jeff, and a whole bunch of people. CBA: Did you have comic art with you? Bernie: I had a big envelope full of drawings. No comic book stuff but little single pictures. Some were very oddly shaped because I would cut the best part of the picture out. It was werewolves, monsters, barbarians, wizards—Universal meets Frank Frazetta. I started showing this stuff and meeting other artists. I had seen Jeff Jones’ work in Creepy so I was a fan of his. People are starting to crowd around and they’re starting to buy this stuff! I’m there selling drawings COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
The Man Behind the Shadow Interview with artist Michael William Kaluta Conducted by Jon B. Cooke
Below: An unused DC mystery cover concept by Michael Wm. Kaluta, courtesy of the artist. ©1999 MWK.
It’s difficult to write a dispassionate intro to a Kaluta interview for ye editor because, well, Mike means a lot to the Brothers Cooke. During our 1973 visit to the Seuling Comic Art Convention, my younger brother, Andy, and I—country boys way out of our Rhode Island element—spent a lot of time in Michael W. Kaluta’s company, who was as gentle, kind and gracious a person as you could ever be blessed to share time with. July 4, 1973 was precisely the day when Kaluta hit it big—The Shadow #1 was released at the con and everybody wanted his attention. And yet the big guy found time to chat with these 12- and 14-year-olds, allowing us to hang behind the table, and pretty much be our protector in the mean ole city. That’s something you can’t forget. And a few years later, when I couldn’t attend the Con and poor Andy was trapped in the hotel because of a torrential downpour, Mike took my brother under his wing and stayed up with him all night in the Commodore’s lobby. It’s taken me over 25 years to properly say it, but thank you, Mike. This interview was conducted by phone on March 13, 1998 and was copyedited by Michael. Comic Book Artist: Were you much of a comics reader as a kid? Michael Wm. Kaluta: I wasn’t a student of comics when I was young, I was a plain old reader. Junior high school was the time when I stopped reading any kind of comic books avidly and high school was when I started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs avidly, looking at the illustrations. In the year I took off between high school and college, I met Steve Hickman, a big Burroughs fan. Then, through Hickman I met Steve Harper, who had the information about all of the old ERB illustrators. It was a real shot in the arm to see all this imagery that obviously had inspired Roy Krenkel and Frank Frazetta. We all loved ERB and the illustrations; we loved those worlds almost to the point of wanting to go and leave this life behind. Most of the time the two Steves and I were together, we were drawing and drawing and drawing. CBA: I was fortunate enough to see, hanging on Carmine Infantino’s apartment wall, an original by St. John and across the room is your illustration for the masthead for the Korak, Son of Tarzan letters page. MWK: That’s not my masthead drawing. The one that Carmine has was actually by Roy Krenkel and inked by Jeff Jones. It’s inked on vellum because Roy had done his in ballpoint—and it’s pure Roy. It
looks like my style because Roy so influenced me. The reason that I know that it’s not Roy’s original is because I have Roy’s ballpoint original in my Studio. It’s flattering to hear I did that art but it’s not too surprising. I studied Roy—who said, “Don’t study from my work because you’ll just learn my mistakes!” I told him that his mistakes are gold. If I’d have done that beautiful Korak figure, leaning to the side shooting the arrow straight up, I’d have just retired. Hickman, Harper and I got to New York in 1967 to attend the SCARP Con, where we met up with the guys from the EC fanzine Spa-Fon: Rich Hauser and Helmut Mueller. We hung out at Phil Seuling’s table and he was, of course, always willing to introduce us to all the good artists. This young Catholic kid from Baltimore, Bernie Wrightson, was at the convention and he won an award for best young talent. We all met, hit it off and went everywhere together. The guys from Chicago said, “Frank [Frazetta] is upstairs and he wants to meet you,” so we ran up nine flights. We were too impatient to wait for the elevator! We all had portfolios under our arms and we went to Frank’s room. Ellie was there and so were their kids. Frank was on his hands and knees trying to plug a TV set in for his kids to watch cartoons. Then he looked through our portfolios, one by one, as we were standing there, awestruck to be in the presence of the Master. I don’t remember what he said to me, if anything, because Bernie had presented him with a drawing and Frank said, “Look, here’s a bunch of Johnny Comet originals—go pick one.” They were Sunday pages! It was flawless work! Later, the Chicago Boys, with Bob Barrett and Frank, brought Frazetta’s originals to the hotel. We had this big artfest up in the room and everybody there went absolutely bugf*ck looking at this stuff. It was also very sobering because after staring holes through the paperback covers the originals were so much more painterly with so much incredible depth—I was not the only guy to think “…might as well just give up... this guy is too good!” CBA: What were your aspirations as a young artist? MWK: I never even thought about being an illustrator or comic book artist. I’d just finished my second year of college... I didn’t know what I was going to do, stay in school or join the Army. After the next SCARP convention, Phil Seuling contacted me and said that Al Williamson had seen stuff that I did and was interested in talking to me about maybe helping with a story. That flipped me out. At the next New York Convention I went up to Al and he gave me a script that he was having trouble getting in to. He asked me to stretch it out. “Give me plenty of boots, girls, dinosaurs and stuff” he said. I made seven pages into 12. Al still has my fumbling pencil originals and, unless he gets mad at me, we won’t tell anyone. They’re really awful, awful stuff. I was so uptight about doing the job that I just rendered and detailed it to death. Later Al did a fine job with the story and let me doodle a bit on a page or two. DC published it under the title, “The Beautiful Beast.” CBA: Did you meet Jeff Jones at around this time? MWK: 1967... Jeff had been the winner of best young talent at the previous SCARP convention and so we got to meet him there and see some of his originals. Fairly amazing. We (Steve Hickman, Steve Harper, Bernie and I) went to his apartment uptown in New York—in the same building Bernie and I would eventually live. CBA: Was this the place where First Fridays was held? MWK: The First Friday get togethers I remember best took place in Jeff and Weezie’s new apartment on the sixth floor. It had a very large living room. Anywhere from five or six to 25-30 people would show up. It was a very eclectic crowd; one one hand, you had Bill Stillwell who was studying to become a surgeon and on the other, COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5
Invasion from the Philippines A Brief Survey of the Great ’70s Filipino Artists at DC by Chris Knowles [Editor’s Preface: What follows is a brief look at the incredible array of talent whose DC work made it to our shores from the Philippines in the 1970s, the opening volley (we hope) in a series of more thorough examinations into the lives and work of the great Filipino artists. CBA is grateful to writer Chris Knowles and art rep Ed Noonchester (who both delivered in record time) and with luck, we’re looking forward to devoting an entire issue to “The Filipino School” in the near future. Now let’s have a look at the invaders who wowed an entire generation of comics readers.—JBC] The Talent Dearth It’s nearly impossible to imagine today, when there seem to be as many comic book artists as comic book readers, but there was a critical shortage of new talent available to the major publishers in the early ‘70s. Many old hands who had been in the business since its inception, suffering long hours and lousy pay, were retiring, joining management or leaving the industry for greener pastures. (And by greener pastures, I mean practically anything else outside of the funny-book racket.) The field was nearly the bottom of the barrel for commercial artists at the time, exceeded in poor pay and prestige perhaps only by coloring books and third-string porn rag illustration. Artists were paid next to nothing for the most part ($35 a page was considered extravagant) and some seasoned vets were ashamed to tell their neighbors what they actually did for a living. At the turn of the decade, most young cartoonists who wanted to pursue their craft and still stand a decent chance of getting laid Below: A advertising job commissioned by Ed were in the undergrounds. While they may not have paid much, Noonchester, and drawn by “comix” offered total creative freedom and an aura of fashionable Gerry Taloac. Thanks to Ed rebellion. And the underground creators used their freedom to for his invaluable assistance IF YOU ENJOYED THIS undreamed PREVIEW,of by Bill Gaines or his EC indulge in gory tableaus and generosity with sharing CLICK THE LINK TOand ORDER THIS fantasies unseen since the cohorts, in pornographic some of his clients’ artwork. ISSUE IN PRINT ORdays DIGITAL FORMAT! of the Tijuana Bibles. Artists like R. Crumb and Rick Griffin had become comix superstars and their services were in demand by the likes of Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. The then-numerous head shops which sold drug paraphernalia and counterculture merchandise also carried underground comix and for a time these adult funnybooks were part and parcel of the Youth Revolution. Contrast that with working for one of the major comics publishers, COMIC BOOK ARTIST #5owned and run by Suits who were More on DC COMICS 1967-74, with art by and interviewsswindling with artists well before the NICK CARDY, JOE SIMON, NEAL ADAMS, BERNIE WRIGHTtypical hippie cartoonist SON, MIKE KALUTA, SAM GLANZMAN, MARV WOLFMAN, IRWIN DONENFELD, SERGIO ARAGONÉS, GIL KANE, DENNY was even born. They O’NEIL, HOWARD POST, ALEX TOTH on FRANK ROBBINS, DC Writer’s Purge of 1968 by MIKE BARR, JOHN BROOME’s final were publishing interview, and more! CARDY cover! material that was (80-page Digital Edition) $3.95 seen by most http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=98_56&products_id=272 Americans as fodder 90
for learning-impaired children and were still operating under the censorious eye of the Comics Code Authority, and the crippling returns system of newsstand distribution. Even artist-friendly execs like Carmine Infantino and Stan Lee couldn’t bring working conditions for artists in line with those in legitimate publishing and advertising. What’s more, comics sales had begun their long, slow and irreversible death march, leaving even less incentive for the big wigs to loosen the purse strings. And what few young people there were working in the office were often either unpaid interns or nebbishy yes-men who bought into the bosses’ “screw the artist” ethic. What possible motivation was there for a talented young artist to jump into that meatgrinder? The Young Turks: Blink and you’ll miss ’em: The only answer of course is that these young cartoonists loved the form. A new breed of artist was emerging from the fan press, prefigured by Barry Windsor-Smith in the late ’60s. People like Jim Starlin, Walt Simonson, Howie Chaykin, Bernie Wrightson and Mike Kaluta were picking up jobs here and there, but most were still painfully green. Looking at one of the future Young Turks in action in the early ‘70s was akin to watching a foal learning to walk. In a short time, these men would find their footing and electrify comics fandom, and in short order, most of them would run screaming from the halls of Marvel and DC for the remainder of the decade. Unburdened by the “Company Man” ethic of the ’50s and the scarcity mentality of those who grew up in the Depression and World War II, the Young Turks knew a lousy deal when they saw one. Neal Adams, the Spiritual Godfather of the ‘70s bravura artists, was hammering away at the feudalist piece-work system of the old four-color baronage with his Comic Artists Guild concept and would, along with Dick Giordano, take in much of the bright young talent to help his Continuity Associates make some real money in the lucrative field of Madison Avenue advertising. In a Bind DC was in a particular bind. “National” was once seen as the prestige house of the comics world, but now Marvel was getting all the press and a growing slice of the market, attracting some of the best of the remaining vets in the bargain. Not that DC’s team was anything to sneeze at—their stable boasted Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Alex Toth and Nick Cardy, among others. But these great craftsmen were older and lacked the hip cache that younger fan artists possessed. And since the newsstand was still the only game in town, genre and anthology titles remained a large chunk of DC’s output and most of their utility artists were needed for the superhero line. Horror was booming and Joe Orlando’s horror anthologies needed fresh hands on deck. The calvary was soon to arrive—from America’s Pacific quasi-colony, the Filipino Islands. The Philippines The Philippines is not so much a country as much as a sprawling conglomeration of distinct islands in the South Pacific. On these countless isles are a diverse population speaking many tongues and immersed in numerous different cultures. The country was first colonized by Spain in the 16th Century, and the Spaniards brought the Catholic Church and a number of Latin customs to blend in with the long-standing Asian traditions. The Philippines fell under the aegis of the U.S. during the Spanish COMIC BOOK ARTIST 5